Iznik is a city located by the lake Iznik. It is only 2 hours away from Istanbul. The city is underrated despite her rich history. The city was called Nicaea in the ancient times. Iznik is derived from her ancient name. The ancient Nicaea was surrounded by five kilometers long city wall which reached to ten meters. More than a hundred towers on the wall were used to secure the city from siege attempts from the East. The city is located on the East of Lake Iznik making her inaccessible for any danger from the West. Today, Iznik city is well known in Turkey thanks to the tiles produced to embellish most of the Ottoman Mosques and palaces. However, city deserves much more importance because of the two Ecumenical Councils held in the city.
The first Council of Nicaea was conducted in 325 AD. 21 Councils have been conducted in the history until the twentieth century. The first council convened in Nicaea is very important in the history of Christianity. Most important part for me is Nicholas of Myra’s attendance to the council. Today, we know him as Santa Claus. He was an Anatolian Saint who lived in the ancient Myra town. Myra is located by the Mediterranean Sea in the South West of Republic of Turkey. The Second Council of Nicaea met in 787 AD. It is the last council of the first seven ecumenical councils by the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Church. The Hagia Sophia of Nicaea hosted the Second Council of Nicaea which is the first place to see when you visit Iznik.
In 1331, the second Sultan of the Ottomans conquered Iznik. The city became the capital of the Ottomans for a while until same Sultan, Orhan conquered Bursa city. The Hagia Sophia of Iznik was converted to a mosque by the Ottomans. A madrasa and a Turkish bath was added nearby. Iznik city hosted more than twenty thousand people. Majority of them worked in the cultivation of walnuts and chestnuts. However, after the occupation of the Ottomans, the city’s population shrinked to a few thousand. That is mainly because of migration of the Christians after the 14th century. Turkomans were following the Ottoman armies expanding to the west. The city’s population didn’t grow during the peak of the tile production in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Iznik city was devasted by an earthquake in 1065 AD. The biggest demolish took place during the Greco-Turkish War which took place from 1919 to 1921. The new Turkish Government relocated the Turks coming from the Balkans to the city. Local authorities are doing their best to bring back the earlier prosperity of Iznik. The Iznik Marathon, restorations of the world famous city walls and recent discovery of a submerged lake in the lake are proof of these efforts.
As the city is only 2 hours away from Istanbul, onc can easily discover the highlights of Iznik city only with an overnight. A day trip on the way to Bursa is possible as well. But we recommend at least one night to see the city walls, Hagia Sophia of Nicaea and Nilufer Hatun Soup Kitchen which houses beautiful examples of world famous Iznik tiles. 480 years old Iznik tile was sold for four million Turkish Liras in an auction in London in May 2019. Don’t you worry, prices are way below four millions of Turkish Liras for a beautiful hand made Iznik tile. During a coffee break by the lake, you won’t regret the pennies spent in Iznik city.