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Caernarfon Castle: A Historic Link Between Caernarfon and Constantinople


The Walls of Constantinople are a succession of walls that have bordered and safeguarded the city of Constantinople (Modern day Istanbul) since it was founded as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by Constantine the Great.  With multiple additions and renovations throughout their long history, they are one of the greatest and most intricate defence systems ever built.  Initially constructed by Constantine the Great, the walls enclosed the city on all sides, protecting it from an attack from either land or sea. The famed double line of the Theodosian Walls was built around the 5th century and were almost impenetrable from any attack. Only the advent of gunpowder siege cannons rendered the fortifications obsolete, resulting in the final siege and fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans on 29th May 1453.  The walls were largely preserved during most of the Ottoman period, until sections began to be pulled apart in the 19th century, as the city expanded beyond its medieval boundaries. Despite the subsequent lack of maintenance, many parts of the walls have survived and are still standing today.
The Walls of Constantinople

Caernarfon Castle stands proudly in the town of Caernarfon, Wales, with its imposing walls and majestic towers. This medieval fortress has a rich history, and one intriguing aspect of its story is its connection to the ancient city of Constantinople, now modern-day Istanbul. In this article, we will explore the fascinating link between Caernarfon and Constantinople, uncovering the shared stories of emperors, dreams, and architectural symbolism.

The Dream of Macsen Wledig: A Roman Emperor's Vision

In the heart of Caernarfon Castle, visitors can find a captivating presentation on its history that begins with an ancient Welsh tale known as "The Dream of Macsen Wledig." This tale recounts the dream of Macsen, also known as Maximus, a Roman emperor who found himself weary after a day of hunting and fell into a deep slumber. In his dream, he embarked on a journey from Rome to Wales, traversing mountains, rivers, and valleys until he stumbled upon a grand city and a fleet of magnificent ships. One ship led him to a castle adorned with gold, silver, and precious jewels, situated at the meeting point of a river and the sea.

As Macsen entered the castle's great hall, he encountered a breathtakingly beautiful maiden. However, his slumber abruptly ended, leaving him yearning to find the maiden he had glimpsed in his dream. This quest would lead him to a place where a river meets the sea, where a castle had been erected – a perfect parallel to the location mentioned in the ancient tale. This connection to Macsen's dream provided Edward I, the builder of Caernarfon Castle, with an opportunity to claim a link back to the legendary Emperor Maximus.


The Walls of Constantinople are a succession of walls that have bordered and safeguarded the city of Constantinople (Modern day Istanbul) since it was founded as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by Constantine the Great.  With multiple additions and renovations throughout their long history, they are one of the greatest and most intricate defence systems ever built.  Initially constructed by Constantine the Great, the walls enclosed the city on all sides, protecting it from an attack from either land or sea. The famed double line of the Theodosian Walls was built around the 5th century and were almost impenetrable from any attack. Only the advent of gunpowder siege cannons rendered the fortifications obsolete, resulting in the final siege and fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans on 29th May 1453.  The walls were largely preserved during most of the Ottoman period, until sections began to be pulled apart in the 19th century, as the city expanded beyond its medieval boundaries. Despite the subsequent lack of maintenance, many parts of the walls have survived and are still standing today.
Constantinople now aka Istanbul

Emperor Maximus and the Link to Constantinople

To reinforce the connection between Caernarfon and Constantinople, Edward I ordered the carving of an imperial eagle out of stone, which was then placed atop the castle's tallest tower, aptly named the Eagle tower. This symbol represented the lineage and legacy of Emperor Maximus, who was the son of Emperor Constantine. Constantine, revered for his role in bringing Christianity to the Roman Empire and building the new imperial capital, Constantinople, held great significance in the historical narrative.

Scholars and experts also draw attention to the presence of red bands in Caernarfon Castle's walls, speculating that they may be linked to Constantinople, Constantine, and Maximus. These bands, reminiscent of the red brick walls of Constantinople, serve as a visual reminder of the historical connection between the two distant cities.


Parallel Histories: Caernarfon and Constantinople

While Caernarfon Castle stands as a testament to the medieval history of Wales, the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) boasts a rich and varied past as well. Both locations served as pivotal centers of power and witnessed the rise and fall of empires. Let us now delve deeper into the histories of Caernarfon and Constantinople, exploring the parallels that exist between these two remarkable cities.


Caernarfon: A Medieval Stronghold

Caernarfon Castle was constructed during the reign of Edward I in the late 13th century. Its strategic location, overlooking the Menai Strait, provided a vantage point for monitoring and controlling the region. The castle's impressive architecture, featuring polygonal towers, sturdy walls, and an inner ward, showcased great architecture during this era.


Caernarfon Castle is a medieval fortress located in Gwynedd, north-west Wales1. It is recognized around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages2. This fortress-palace on the banks of the River Seiont is grouped with Edward I’s other castles at Conwy, Beaumaris, and Harlech as a World Heritage Sit
Caernarfon Castle entrance

Constantinople: The City of Empires

In stark contrast to Caernarfon's medieval origins, Constantinople boasts a history that spans millennia. Founded as Byzantium in 657 BC, the city grew to become the capital of the Roman Empire under the reign of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD. Renamed Constantinople, it served as the epicenter of the Eastern Roman Empire, later known as the Byzantine Empire.

Constantinople's strategic location positioned it as a vital crossroads between Europe and Asia, attracting merchants, diplomats, and conquerors alike. The city's grandeur was reflected in its awe-inspiring architecture, such as the Hagia Sophia and the Hippodrome, which showcased the wealth and power of the Byzantine emperors.

However, Constantinople faced numerous challenges throughout its history, including invasions by various empires and the devastating Fourth Crusade. In 1453, the city finally fell to the Ottoman Empire, leading to its transformation into the vibrant and cosmopolitan capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul.


Architectural Marvels: A Historic link between Caernarfon and Constantinople

Both Caernarfon Castle and the city of Constantinople boast architectural marvels that continue to captivate visitors to this day. The grandeur and symbolism embedded within their structures offer glimpses into the past and the aspirations of their respective builders.


Caernarfon Castle: A Medieval Masterpiece

Caernarfon Castle's architecture reflects the military might and political ambition of Edward I. The castle's polygonal towers, reminiscent of Roman fortifications, served both defensive and symbolic purposes. The Eagle tower, crowned with the imperial eagle carving, stood as a testament to the castle's connection to Emperor Maximus and the Roman Empire.

The castle's walls, punctuated by red bands, enclose an inner ward that housed various buildings and facilities, including a great hall, chambers, and living quarters. The design and layout of Caernarfon Castle were meticulously planned to create an imposing and formidable fortress, leaving a lasting impression on all who beheld it.


Constantinople's Architectural Splendor

Constantinople's architectural splendor, on the other hand, reflects a rich tapestry of influences from different civilizations throughout its history. The Byzantine Empire left behind iconic structures such as the Hagia Sophia, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture that later became a mosque and is now a museum. Its massive dome, intricate mosaics, and grandeur represent the pinnacle of Byzantine design.

The Hippodrome, once the heart of Constantinople's social and sporting life, boasted a grand arena and obelisks that stood as symbols of the city's power and prestige. The city's walls, which withstood numerous sieges, were a testament to the engineering prowess and determination of its builders.



Caernarfon Castle is a medieval fortress located in Gwynedd, north-west Wales1. It is recognized around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages2. This fortress-palace on the banks of the River Seiont is grouped with Edward I’s other castles at Conwy, Beaumaris, and Harlech as a World Heritage Site
Caernarfon Castle

Legacy and Cultural Significance

Both Caernarfon and Constantinople hold immense cultural significance and continue to shape the identities of their respective regions. Caernarfon Castle stands as a symbol of Welsh heritage and resilience, a reminder of the struggles and triumphs of the Welsh people. Its connection to Emperor Maximus and the Roman Empire adds an extra layer of historical intrigue, tying the castle to a broader historical narrative.

In contrast, Istanbul, the modern-day incarnation of Constantinople, serves as a bridge between Europe and Asia, blending diverse cultures, religions, and traditions. It is a vibrant metropolis that celebrates its rich past while embracing the present and future.


Conclusion

Caernarfon Castle's connection to Constantinople, highlighted through the tale of Macsen Wledig and the architectural symbolism, adds a fascinating dimension to its history. The shared stories of emperors, dreams, and architectural marvels link these distant cities, offering a glimpse into the interconnectedness of historical narratives.

As visitors explore the halls and towers of Caernarfon Castle, they can appreciate the layers of history and the echoes of ancient tales that have shaped this remarkable fortress. The link between Caernarfon and Constantinople serves as a reminder of the enduring power of stories and the rich tapestry of human history.


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Visit Caernarfon Ltd

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