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Cecil Lee Striker

Oral History Interview with Cecil Lee Striker undertaken by Claire Moran and Günder Varinlioğlu at his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 2 and 3, 2012. Lee Striker was a Dumbarton Oaks Visiting Fellow in Rome in 1970–1971.

CM: My name is Claire Moran. The date today is May 2nd, 2012 and today I have the pleasure of interviewing Cecil Lee Striker who is a retired professor in the Department of History and Art at the University of Pennsylvania. This interview is being recorded for the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives in Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, located in Washington, D.C. Before we begin, do I have your permission to record this interview?

CLS: Yes, you do.

CM: And for the record, can you please state your full name?

CLS: Cecil Lee Striker.

CM: And when and where were you born?

CLS: I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 15th, 1932.

CM: And where are your parents originally from?

CLS: My mother was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. My father was born in Princeton, Kentucky.

CM: And what did they do for a living?

CLS: My mother was what I think is normally called a housewife, although before she married she was a practicing artist and decorator. She worked for the quite well known pottery, fine arts pottery company, Rookwood Pottery, in Cincinnati. My father was a physician and he was a specialist in the treatment of diabetes and he was extremely active in administrative affairs regarding the treatment of diabetes. He was, among other things, the founder of the American Diabetes Association.

CM: And how many siblings do you have?

CLS: I have one younger brother, three and a half years younger. He’s a semi-retired physician, a pediatric anesthesiologist living in Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s married and has two children, a daughter and a son. The son is married and has two children, lives in Minneapolis. And that’s my immediate family.

CM: And where did you go for college and what was your major?

CLS: I went to Oberlin College. My major in the end was History of Art. In the beginning, it was Pre-medicine.

CM: And where and when did you go for your Master’s and PhD?

CLS: Upon leaving Oberlin, I was draft age – it was still the Korean War – and I was just about to be drafted. And I chose instead to enlist in the Army Counterintelligence Corps in order to be sent to the German language school, because I knew that I was going to need German language for history of art, archaeology, what-have-you. So, I spent three years in the American Army, two of them in Munich, Germany. I was a Counterintelligence Corps agent. It was 1954 to 1957. In fall, 1957, I entered the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, graduate program in the history of art. I spent three years in residence and received my MA in 1960 and in 1960 I received a Fulbright for Germany to work on my doctoral dissertation. I spent two years in Germany, one of them in Marburg at the University of Marburg, one in Munich at what was then called the Technical University of Munich, and basically that brought me to 1962, the beginning of my academic career.

CM: And can you tell us a little bit more about why you decided to go to Germany and what your studies entailed there?

CLS: When I started graduate school, I really wasn’t sure what field of art history I wanted to go into and by a series of choices and accidents, ultimately extremely happy, I ended up with my advisor as Richard Krautheimer and I was interested in the relationship between western medieval and Byzantine art and architecture. And as is so often the case, my dissertation arose out of a seminar report, which I gave on the relationship between Byzantine and pre-Romanesque German architecture. The title of the dissertation – of the report – was “Byzantine Elements in Ottonian Architecture.” It was a fascinating subject. It took me all over Europe, from the Iberian peninsula to the north to the Balkans, in particular, ex-Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, what-have-you. When the time came, however, to commit it to writing, it was a virtually impossible task, so, the completion of the dissertation was postponed and postponed and postponed and postponed. In later years this gave me great sympathy for my students, who took much longer than I actually would have liked for them to finish their dissertation. At a certain point, I realized that I probably couldn’t write the dissertation because it was too vast a subject for that and so I just picked one small part of it and that was a survey, which I had made, of the Church of the Myrelaion, or Bodrum Djami, in Istanbul. I was able to survey this building in 1965-66 by having been granted a fellowship by the American Research Institute in Turkey. And this was a very useful survey; the building was very important. And it seemed that this was a very good, expedient – to turn this quite focused and limited study of the Church of the Myrelaion into my dissertation and to have that be accepted as a dissertation. And that’s how I finished the dissertation. That’s what actually ultimately moved me from mainly western medieval architecture into Byzantine architecture and into, actually, the archaeological aspect of architecture, so that ultimately I became a buildings archaeologist.

CM: And can you tell us anything about other professors you had at the IFA?

CLS: About other –?

CM: Other professors or teachers you had at IFA?

CLS: I think at one point I counted twelve different people with whom I studied. This was the heyday of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, which was a remarkable institution. It had been founded in the early 1930s, so as a part of New York University, but as the advent of the Nazis ultimately resulted in the discharge from all German universities of people who were Jewish or who had any Jewish background and relation, there was a massive exodus of Jewish art historians, many of whom came to the United States. In the mid to late ’30s, the then director of the institute, Walter Cook, had the famous expression, “Hitler shakes the tree and I collect the apples,” so that one after the other of these émigré scholars was appointed at the Institute of Fine Arts, so I had courses with, of course, Richard Krautheimer, who ultimately became my dissertation supervisor; Walter Friedlander, the great scholar of mannerism and baroque; Karl Lehmann, the classical archaeologist; Guido Schoenberger, the medievalist; visiting professors like Ernst Gombrich and Otto Demus, all of them migrating to – even if they’re not on the actual permanent faculty of the Institute of Fine Arts – coming there as really a kind of gathering place for émigré German scholars. So, it was a wonderfully broad exposure in vast numbers of fields and since it was only a graduate school, there was no quote-unquote “distraction” of undergraduate teaching. The faculty and staff were concerned with graduate teaching and their research, so it was really a remarkable graduate study. There’s no place like it any more. All of these great men are now no longer alive and the institute is still a very good place for the study of the history of art, but the ground has leveled and I think there are almost as many distinguished professors of the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania – my own institution – as there probably are or were at the Institute of Fine Arts.

CM: And would you describe your relationship with Richard Krautheimer a little bit more?

CLS: My relationship was, in the end, in the beginning, rather formal. I went to him because I had had differences of opinion with Harry Bober, with whom I had worked, who was the medieval figural art specialist, and on the advice of the Director of the Institute of Fine Arts, Craig Smyth, I was introduced to Richard Krautheimer and began taking his courses. And we had an immediate sympathy for one another. And it was in a seminar that he directed on Byzantine influences in Western architecture that I gave my seminar report, out of which grew my first dissertation subject. And in order to carry out the research for this I was to go to Germany. This was for me quite interesting. It was my second extended stay in Germany, having been there for two years in the Army Counterintelligence Corps. My spoken German was quite fluent by that time, but the distinctive thing about this new enterprise was that I was in many respects viewed as the conscience of Richard Krautheimer, which was a role that I found difficult to play and which I didn’t particularly wish to play. Richard Krautheimer and his family had suffered very badly in the Holocaust. His sister died in the concentration camp. Both of the parents of his wife had died in a concentration camp, you know, the whole circle of his family was just exterminated and Richard, when I went to Germany, had not yet gone back to Germany. So, I was, in a certain sense, the advance feeler of Richard Krautheimer in Germany and it was a curious role to play. Several people said to me, “Striker, your teacher believes that I was a Nazi, but I hope you will tell him that I never had anything to do with the party,” and what-have-you. There were several conversations of this kind, which made me uncomfortable, but nevertheless were an understandable fact of my coming to Germany. I then came back to America and in 1962 I had to find a job and I had three job possibilities. They were not all formal offers yet: Yale, Princeton, and Vassar. And I was told by Richard Krautheimer, “You are going to Vassar,” and that is because Vassar was in a certain sense Richard Krautheimer’s farm club. That’s where he sent all of his students. He had himself taught there from 1937 to 1952 and had very close affections to Vassar and he sent his students there in order to be taught how to teach. And then they could go elsewhere if they wished or were so able and so I followed my orders and I went to Vassar. And being at Vassar, I was quite close to NYU, so I saw a good deal of Richard Krautheimer in those days and we became quite close personal friends. I then got married in 1968 and my wife, who is German, became a very dear friend of Richard Krautheimer, so it was really a sort of foursome – Richard and his wife and myself and my wife. So, although Richard and his wife moved to Rome in 1972, we made a point of visiting him in Rome every year on our way out to Istanbul in the summer, when I was working on the Kalenderhane project. And in Flims, Switzerland, for several days on the way back. So, this friendship was perpetuated. One year in the late ’70s, he was at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, so we saw him all the time. He came down here and so forth and it was very much a father-son relationship in addition to being an intellectual relationship. I took part in his funeral and I buried his box of ashes. I missed him then and he’s been dead for fifteen years and I still miss him. He was a remarkable individual and played a very significant role in my – certainly in my intellectual life, but also in my personal life.

CM: And would you be able to tell us a little more about what he was like as a person?

CLS: Richard was very outgoing, very personable, extremely interested in people. He had a very, very loud and outgoing persona. At his funeral, one of his colleagues, young colleagues, at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome, where he lived, made the very amusing comment: “You might not always know exactly where Richard was in the Hertziana,” – which was a very quiet library – “but you always had some idea, because you could hear him as he talked to himself loudly all the time.” Richard had the knack as a teacher of identifying where are the strengths of this particular student and then sending that student off in the direction of his or her strength. He was a man of vast knowledge. He was widely traveled. He was an idea man, although he himelf said he didn’t like to think in abstract terms, but more in concrete terms. He was really, in the end, the buildings researcher, although he also – he worked on sculpture and occasionally would talk about painting. But he preferred three-dimensional objects and he was really a buildings researcher. His language was very eloquent – again, one of the stories, the comments, that’s made about him: “Richard Krautheimer, a master of the English language, except for its pronunciation [laughs].” Indeed, he kept his wrong, German accent all throughout his life. I could talk at length about him. I’ve written about Richard. After his death, we had a large symposium in Rome, a one-day symposium, on Richard Krautheimer and my assignment was to talk about Richard Krautheimer and early Christian, Byzantine art and architecture. And my essay, together with all the papers given that day, was published in a volume, published by the Bibliotheca Hertziana and the city of Rome, so my assessment of him is a matter of print, as well.

CM: And who else was studying with Richard Krautheimer when you were a graduate student with him?

CLS: He didn’t have a large number of doctoral students, but he had a circle and in those days graduate study – at least at the Institute of Fine Arts – was such an extended affair that generations were very long. I had as friends of mine people who had been graduate students at the institute for six or seven or eight or ten years. Leo Steinberg, who ultimately came and taught here at Penn, was eleven years older then me and was still at the Institute when I was going there. And he was only one of Richard Krautheimer’s students. There was Richard Palmer, who was a professor at Columbia, who died very young – I correct that: he was actually at the Institute of Fine Arts and then at Vassar and then again at the Institute. And there was Alfred Frazer, who was at Columbia and with whom I both studied at the Institute and taught together at Vassar. Alfred was a couple of years older than me and he was one of the people who was sent to the Vassar farm club to learn how to teach. There was Jim Morganstern, now emeritus at Ohio State University, who worked in the Byzantine field, two or three years younger than myself. It will take me a bit, but I could – Slobodan Ćurčić, professor at Princeton, a couple of years my junior, but very much in my field as a Byzantinist. But then there were all the former Krautheimer students who felt themselves part of a club going back to Jim Ackerman and to John Coolidge, who was Richard’s first PhD student and so those of us who had studied with Richard Krautheimer felt that we belonged to a certain exclusive circle and we kept in touch with one another.

CM: And can you tell us a little bit about the basic trajectory of your academic career after that?

CLS: At Vassar College, I was hired as the medievalist, the, and so that meant I taught everything beginning with late antique and right up through Gothic. I taught manuscript illumination, I taught a general survey of medieval art, I taught the minor arts, I taught architecture. And then I also taught northern painting – I taught Van Eyck and Brueghel, Durer. I taught the history of prints, using the print collection. And as is normal in an undergraduate department, I also taught a survey course. In a large university like Penn, we have teaching assistants, who teach the sections, but at Vassar the regular faculty taught the sections, as well, so I taught two sections of the survey course. So, it was a very good forced introduction to learning a good deal about – not only about the phenomenon of teaching, but also generally the history of art that you may not have studied when you were a graduate student. There were quite honestly several courses in which I – as the classic expression goes – I stayed one chapter ahead of the class, in terms of preparing myself for the lecture. I was hired in 1968 by the University of Pennsylvania to be their Byzantinist and in a certain sense that is a misnomer, because I have never really considered myself a Byzantinist in the narrow sense of the word. This term really applies to a small group of art historians, but more really specifically to textual-oriented historians, text people and what-have-you. I am a specialist in Byzantine architecture and I became that, so to speak, over time, but at Penn I was expected to teach all of Byzantine and I was excluded from western medieval architecture, which interested me quite as much as Byzantine, as long as David Robb, my elder colleague in the department, was still teaching. When David Robb retired, together with my other colleague at Penn, Charles Minott, who was also a medievalist, we decided to split the middle ages: Charles Minott would teach all of the figural arts and I would teach all of the architecture and all of the Byzantine. By then, I had already begun what became ultimately the largest part of my career research, namely the research project at the church called Kalenderhane Mosque in Istanbul. Let me describe very briefly how that came into being. The first building I worked on, the Church of the Myrelaion or the Bodrum Djami, is fairly securely dated based on historical relationship to the emperor Romanos I to the beginning of the tenth century. But if you then look around the city of Istanbul-Constantinople for securely dated buildings immediately anterior to this building and try to get some sense of the quote-unquote developmental history of Byzantine architecture leading up to this, you’re left almost empty-handed. There is one dated building from the beginning of the tenth century and before that nothing is secure. There was this gigantic anonymous building called Kalenderhane Mosque, which was dated to the, maybe, eighth century based upon its masonry – maybe ninth century – one didn’t really know whether it was a one-phase or multi-phase building, I mean, didn’t know much about it. In 1965, while I was working on the Myrelaion, I obtained permission to get into the Kalenderhane building, which had been locked since the mid-1930s and no one had been inside. And together with my ultimate colleague, Dogan Kuban, with whom I did this project, we went into the building, found it to be in a deplorable state of disrepair – the building originally had wonderful, polychrome marble wall coverings like the marble samples that you see over there on my shelf. These had fallen to the ground, smashing all of the furniture below. The place was a mess. I took a series of photographs, we made a new plan of the building, and I sent a report to Dumbarton Oaks in Washington. There was no intention in my doing this to, myself, become involved in any sort of Kalenderhane project, but to my interest I was invited then by Paul Underwood, then the head of the Fieldwork Committee at Dumbarton Oaks, and Ernst Kitzinger, who was then the Director of studies at Dumbarton Oaks, to come down to Washington and to discuss the possibility of the Kalenderhane project, which I did in the winter of 1965. And they agreed to fund an initial campaign – 1965 – initial campaign, 1966, to assess what was to be done there, what about restoration, what could we find out about the history of the building, and that was the beginning of a fifteen-year project, which resulted in the complete restoration of the building, the excavation of the entire area surrounding the building and excavation within the building. The result, which I can summarize in a minute: we discovered that this was not one building, that there were actually four buildings on the site: a late Roman bath from around the year 400; an early Christian church from the late sixth century, which was to the north of the building; a second church alongside it from the end of the seventh century; and then, the present building, which, on the basis of very good stratigraphic coin finds, we can date to the very end of the twelfth century. We ultimately could give an even more precise date. After the publication of our first volume, an English scholar published a poem by a very little known late Byzantine author named Constantine Silvius describing a gigantic fire of 1197 and since we had discovered, through hidden frescoes that we laid free, images of the mother of God, Kyriotissa, among them one over the main entry, which is the place where the title saint or person to whom the church is dedicated always appears, we knew that we had found the name of this church, which nobody had the slightest idea that this was the name of the church. There had been three other suggestions, all of them wrong. So, we had the name of the church, we had the stratigraphic coin evidence for its construction, and then there was the poem of Constantine Silvius describing the destruction of the building in the fire of July 27th, 1197, and in this building we discovered a very fragmentary fresco cycle of the life of St. Francis of Assisi. And this could only have been painted during the period of the crusader conquest of Constantinople and that embraced the period 1204–1261, so we could date the building – the standing building – quite precisely: the fire that destroyed its predecessor – it must have then been finished by the time of the crusader conquest of 1204. And the building was then reoccupied after 1261 by the Greeks and became, again, the Kyriotissa church.

CM: Sorry to interrupt, but do you mind if we change gears slightly so we can get back to the Kalenderhane project after?

CLS: Yes.

CM: So, I’m going to switch to Robert Van Nice, if you don’t mind.

CLS: By all means, yes.

CM: So, my first question is: how did you first find out about Robert Van Nice’s work at Hagia Sophia?

CLS: Well, I first found out about it because I met Bob Van Nice at Dumbarton Oaks. I guess the two were perhaps more or less simultaneous. I don’t really know how much I knew about Hagia Sophia, other than having been there. I probably didn’t know very much about Bob Van Nice’s work before meeting Bob Van Nice. My first visit to Istanbul was in August, 1961, where I visited following the International Congress of Byzantine Studies in Ohrid, Yugoslavia. I then drove my little Renault Dauphine to Istanbul and spent two weeks there, went to Hagia Sophia, of course. But then in 1965, when I received this grant to work on the Myrelaion, I was being advised by Paul Underwood and he said, “Well, you really must talk with Bob Van Nice about problems about how to survey a building.” So, I went downstairs into the basement of Dumbarton Oaks, where Bob had his enormous drafting room – Bob’s drafting room was, oh, maybe at least the size of this room, maybe half again larger than this. I don’t know what it is now; I have not been in that room since Bob Van Nice’s retirement but there were two gigantic drafting tables. Bob worked at one and Bob’s assistant John Wilson worked at the other and I sat with Bob and he told me a little bit about how you survey a building. I knew a bit about that from my own studies, but I had never really surveyed a whole building before and then I went off to Istanbul and began my survey of the Myrelaion. I was very fortunate in that my later collaborator Dogan Kuban, who had been a fellow at Dumbarton Oaks some years before, gave me his research assistant, Selcuk Batur, who was an architect, to help me in my survey, so it was really with Selcuk that I did the survey, but I’d go maybe once a week, maybe every now and then, to Hagia Sophia and say “Bob, I’ve got this problem. We’ve done it this way. What would you suggest we do?” So, I had the benefit of the ongoing advice already in 1965 from Bob on my work, the Myrelaion. And then I began the Kalenderhane project and that was 1966. That was shortly before Bob’s retirement. He came to Istanbul for certain periods of time but it wasn’t the long six or eight months or full year stays that he used to have in Istanbul, so I saw him from time to time. Then, ’67 – ’68, I got married, came with my new bride to Istanbul. By then, Bob and Ute and I had become such close friends that at our wedding in Washington, D.C., to which Ute’s parents could not come because her mother was ill, Bob Van Nice actually gave her away at my wedding. And so, he was my surrogate father-in-law in a certain sense. We saw a good deal of one another, summer of ’68. When we came to Washington in ’69 and ’70, we always stayed at the Van Nices’, so it was a close personal relationship, in addition to my interest, of course, in the ongoing survey of Hagia Sophia.

CM: And by the late 1960s I believe that the project had already been going on for almost twenty years. Do you remember other people’s opinions on the work and how it was progressing at that point?

CLS: I do. You of course remember how that whole project got started – like so many things, almost accidentally. Bob had initially gone off to Isfahan on the recommendation of William Emerson, who was his teacher and who was the dean of the architecture school at MIT, which was where Bob got his degree. And Bob wished for help and Myron Smith, who was a Persian, American-Persian architectural historian, surveyed the great mosque in Isfahan and other buildings. So, Bob and Betty both went to Isfahan and Bob hated Myron Smith. The word got around – Bob never told me this – the word got around and I don’t know whether it was just rumor or what, but that the reason for this hatred was because Bob thought that Myron Smith was making inappropriate approaches to his new bride and that was the reason for this intense dislike for Myron Smith. But that lasted only one year and, the following year, William Emerson suggested, “Why don’t we go to Istanbul? And let us survey just one of the corner bays of the, you know, they’re the floor niche bays.” So, the original intent of the Hagia Sophia survey, as conceived by Mr. Emerson, was “Let’s just make a survey of just this one corner bay.” [Drops microphone.] I hope I haven’t broken anything by dropping this. So, it began as – a survey of one of the corner niches of Hagia Sophia is what ultimately developed into the Hagia Sophia project. It’s pointed out again and again – and Bob is the first to admit it – that he was not an architectural historian. He wasn’t even what the Germans call a bauforscher, a buildings researcher. He was just – as he used to say, “I’m only an architect,” and it was sort of a in-quotation-mark, tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating type of thing. But he saw his task to be, really, only to record the building. Period. Paragraph. He loved to disdain the comments made by the architectural historians about Hagia Sophia. When the well-known architectural historian Kenneth John Conant, professor at Harvard, came to Hagia Sophia already before the outbreak of the war, Bob took him around and Conant then wrote an article reconstructing the first dome of Hagia Sophia. And that was always the point of departure for Bob’s sarcastic comments about the fact that actually, “Kenneth Conant stole that idea from me, but he misunderstood what I said. So, what he stole is wrong.” It was a double-whammy! First the criticism of Conant as a person and second the criticism of Conant as a thief of Bob’s own idea. It was Conant’s idea that the first dome was actually a pendentive vault, a continuation of the curvature of the pendentive, and he published this in the very short-lived journal of the Byzantine Institute of America. Part of Bob’s dislike of Conant was also Conant’s association with Thomas Whittemore. And throughout Bob’s entire career, he never missed an opportunity to cast aspersions on Thomas Whittemore and everything that the Thomas Whittemore gang were doing – and that’s what he called them, the Thomas Whittemore gang – in Hagia Sophia. I can understand that. Thomas Whittemore was a very impressive individual, impressed as much by himself as he was by the work that he was doing. He made a point of meeting and knowing and getting to know everybody. It is impressive that he was able to persuade the founder and president of modern Turkey, Ataturk, to allow the work to begin in Hagia Sophia and to declare what had been the premier mosque of the Ottoman Empire a national, secular monument. If it hadn’t been for Whittemore, that probably would not have taken place, or probably would not have taken place with the consequentiality that it ultimately did. But Bob never particularly got along well with Whittemore or with, really, any of the people associated with that project. He never had much to do with Paul Underwood, despite the fact that ultimately they were both at Dumbarton Oaks. He never had much to do with Bill MacDonald, who was a lovely man and who was Thomas Whittemore’s administrative assistant and who worked also for a year or two at the Kariye. He never had much good to say, unfortunately, about Ernest Hawkins, who was a wonderful man. Ernest was an Englishman and he was one of Whittemore’s principal artistans, working on the laying free of mosaics in Hagia Sophia. He ultimately played a major role in the cleaning of the frescoes and mosaics at the Kariye Djami. And then I had the good fortune to have him as my principal consultant and ultimately conservator at the Kalenderhane. I never tried to get in between these relationships. I just would listen when Bob would cast aspersions on the whole Whittemore gang. There were some people who were really mean to Bob, but that’s very well known. The best known of these – and I know that I’ve signed a document permitting Dumbarton Oaks to publish this in whatever fashion is possible – but it ain’t no secret that Cyril Mango is an extremely difficult individual and most anybody who’s worked in any field allied to Cyril Mango has been the object of Mango’s criticism and disdain. And I’m no exception. You asked, “How was Bob’s work regarded by others?” I’ll quote Cyril Mango: “Worthless.” There were others who pushed Bob to turn the survey into a history of Hagia Sophia and this just simply got nowhere. The administration of the Byzantine Center has gone through a number of transformations, starting with an external committee, then for a while reduced to a small group of three or four people, then somewhat expanded, and then transformed again into the predecessor of what are now called, ultimately, the Senior Fellows for the Center for Byzantine Studies. I’ll have more to say about this group a little bit later on. This was a meddlesome, difficult group and all of their predecessors felt that the Hagia Sophia project was taking up much too much space, it was taking many too many years – good Lord, it began in 1938 and it’s now 1967 and 68 and so forth and only two thirds of the drawings have been finished and, and, and, and – well, it went down one blind alley after another. Bob, who wrote very little about Hagia Sophia – he’s quoted as having written a great deal but he’s not written much at all. He wrote an article with Mr. Emerson on the first minaret of Hagia Sophia, published in the American Journal of Archaeology, already in the early 1940s. He then wrote a brief article in which he claimed that the semi-domes of Hagia Sophia did not really abut or exert lateral forces on the transverse arches that carried them. And shortly after this article appeared an Englishman, a structural engineer named Rowland Mainstone, wrote a counter-article to this saying, “Van Nice is wrong; the semi-domes do definitely abut.” And he published a famous photograph, which is a photograph taken looking along the western transverse arch that is carrying a semi-dome coming down and it shows the arch going like this [demonstrates with hands] and then going out like this and then coming back again, obviously being pushed out by the lateral thrust of the semi-dome. And once that was called to Bob’s attention – this was irrefutable, of course – and Bob was so impressed that he offered and negotiated with Rowland Mainstone to write a book jointly on Hagia Sophia. That never came to be. They began working on it. Roland, who writes fluently in impossible English – I mean, those of us who teach buildings archaeology and so forth read Rowland Mainstone all the time and we have difficulty enough as professionals trying to understand what he’s saying and we always spend too much time telling students what Rowland Mainstone really meant when he said this, that, and the other. So, Rowland finishes the manuscript in a year, a year and a half, and he asked Bob, “Where’s your contribution?” And by that point, it seems, Bob had written – actually, he’d written nothing. I heard from John Wilson later. So, Rowland published his own book and Bob believed that Rowland had, quote, again, “stolen” Bob’s ideas in order to publish this book and never spoke to Roland Mainstone again. That was the end of that project. And then Bob was pushed to write his own book and it was very sad, because that really wasn’t Bob’s métier. And Jonathan, whom I knew quite well, once said to me, “You know, it was so sad for me coming in every day and seeing Bob sitting at the typewriter and hunting and pecking [motions typing with two fingers] the first page of the book, yanking it out of the typewriter, throwing it in the wastebasket, putting a fresh sheet in, and hunting and pecking the first page of the book and yanking it out of the typewriter and throwing it in the wastebasket.” So, obviously people at Dumbarton Oaks were concerned about this, had little knowledge and little sympathy for even the history of architecture, if that’s what this was to be, and even less sympathy for a wordless portfolio of drawings. It was so foreign to everything that Dumbarton Oaks did that it was incomprehensible to them. And so, Bob was the object of a great deal of criticism. It galled him until the end that the Kariye would receive so much attention and money and such a, in his words, lavish publication – it was always pointed out to Bob that his publication, in its own way, was also very lavish, published only in collotype print, which in the end, after the Japanese printer who was originally contracted for it – there were two collotype presses left in the world. One was in Tokyo and the other was in London and the Tokyo press went out of business, so in the end there was only one place in the world that was capable of doing the collotype prints of Hagia Sophia. But now, why collotype? Because the scale of the Hagia Sophia drawings – and they were published to two scales, one to one hundred, which is normal, and then one to two hundred and fifty, for the larger sheets. Everything in the building in that particular drawing was drawn by Bob, regardless of its scale. So, it could be a massive arch with a span of 30 or 40 feet or it could be a mason’s mark two or three inches across. And many people don’t know it but if you pull out – my copy’s over in the corner; I won’t pull it out and show it to you. But if you pull out the Hagia Sophia drawings and you see a little tiny speck somewhere, don’t try to blow it away. It’s not a speck of dust. Get your magnifying glass out and look at it. You can read it! It’s the mason’s mark and it’s readable because it’s printed in collotype. So, he was criticized for his lavishness despite the fact that he was very critical of the other related projects that Dumbarton Oaks was supporting.

CM: And do you remember what the social climate was like in Istanbul at the time you were there together or when Bob was there and how he fit into the kind of expat community in Istanbul at the time?

CLS: Well yes. Bob was really very well known. He was a famous figure in a number of Istanbul communities. First of all, he lived at Robert College for much of the time that he was working there, so he came to know the whole Robert College gang. This was before the college was nationalized and became Bosporus University. He, of course, was known by the whole architectural community and if there is one profession which is disproportionately large for the population in Turkey, it is architecture, which is – there are many more Turkish architects than the population would allow, on a population basis many more per capita than, for example, the United States. And Bob knew all of the great ones. One of his closest friends was Sedad Eldem, for example, who is one of Turkey’s best-known architects. And we were, thanks to Bob, invited to a number of parties at Sedad Eldem’s wonderful villa overlooking the Bosporus. So, Bob was part of that community. And then, of course, Bob was the normal target for any visiting dignitaries coming to Istanbul. You had to try to keep your telephone number out of the hands of the American consulate in Istanbul. Otherwise, they would call up: “Hi, Lee. This is so-and-so and Senator So-and-so is in Istanbul. Can you take him through Kalenderhane?” Ernest Hawkins told the same story; “Hello, Ernest. Can you take So-and-so through the Kariye?” and so forth. Bob tried to avoid this as best he could, but he also was called upon many times to serve the interests of the broader public. Dumbarton Oaks being in Washington, there were all of the political connections there and so on, so he was quite well known and he had three children: Rob Jr., Molly, his older daughter, and Barbara, who unfortunately died very, very young. So, he was also part of the social community of Robert College, focused around the children, whom he had with him. We saw Bob from time to time, but I’m sure he felt much the way that I did when I was in Istanbul. I mean, I was up at five every morning and to bed, exhausted, at nine-thirty or ten every night and six days a week working, running all over this big site and so forth. You were exhausted at the end of every day. It’s one thing to be on an excavation way out in the desert and the whole team goes to bed at eight-thirty at night and gets up at five. But when you’ve got to meet someone visiting from America at seven o’clock and take them out and show them the Bosporus and have dinner and you’re up talking until eleven o’clock and so on, you try to avoid that. So, you tried to avoid as much social life as possible.

CM: Do you have any memories of what access and security was like at the building of Hagia Sophia at the time?

CLS: The building is provided with a large number of guards, with a very high perimeter, built wall and fence, surrounding the entire precinct now and less so then. Well-marked, limited entry and exit places. Many guards within the building, telling you not to do this or, “Don’t walk on that,” or what-have-you. It’s got good security. In those days, when the Greek-Turkish issue was a more abrasive one than it has been in recent years, it even had a large military contingent, with mounted and loaded machine guns, surrounding the building on May 27th, which is the day of the conquest of Constantinople. And when fear that, quote, “Greek terrorists” would attack Hagia Sophia, taking it back again as a mosque – to this day, among Greek nationalists, there is this idea of the great idea, Megale Idea, of reconstituting a grander Hellenic empire, as it was in Byzantium. And the center-point of this is the rededication of Hagia Sophia as the first church of the empire. So, with sentiments like this, even though they don’t really play much of an issue now, one has to be very careful about Hagia Sophia. There is the other side of the coin. I came one day to Hagia Sophia – I guess it was in the early days. And I was told that Feridun Dirimtekin, the then-director, was in the hospital and he’d been severely stabbed. “Oh my God, what happened?” Well, a young man came in and started to pray, an Islamic prayer, and he was told by the guard, “You cannot do this. This is a museum. This is not a mosque anymore.” And the man continued to pray, so Feridun was called and he came in and he said, “I’m the director of Hagia Sophia and I’m telling you that you must do this.” And the man pulled out a knife and stabbed Feridun. So, I mean, the building carries an enormous symbolism with it in both directions – I mean, those who want it to be a practicing mosque and those who want it to be, once again, the first church of the Greek Orthodoxy.

CM: You mentioned that Robert Van Nice counseled you on surveying methods while you were there. Can you tell us a little bit more about his working methods, if he had any kind of theories or ideas about surveying and working methods in the fields?

CLS: It’s very interesting to look at this through the modern eyes of stereophotogrammetry, laser scanning, total stations, the entire electronic spectrum, which has come into being and is standard use since the completion of the Van Nice Hagia Sophia survey. Bob had one instrument and he swore it was the best instrument of its kind ever made. It was a Wilde T-1 theodolite, W-I-L-D-E, Swiss theodolite. And for those of you who are not familiar with the term theodolite, a theodolite is an engineering device, which is capable of measuring orbitally any angle – that means it can measure horizontal or vertical angles through a telescope mounted on a revolving disc, so you can – if you wanted to measure the distance from there to there remotely, a theodolite has in it little tiny bars in the optic, which are called Beaman stadia bars – excuse me for all of this highly technical business, but you have to understand that in order to understand how Bob measured and these Beaman stadia bars are proportional to a specific distance between them, any distance at which they are measured, so if you take my tape measurer – let’s say an inch or a meter – and you hold it over there by that black door and I look through my telescope in my theodolite and I see that the distance on your – I’m reading your tape measurer in my telescope and I see the distance is ten increments, so that tells me that that distance that I’m reading is actually ten inches. So, I can actually read a distance remotely. And of course, when you are measuring the interior space of a building of the enormity of Hagia Sophia, there are so many places that, unless you were to scaffold the entire interior of the building, so many places that have to be interpolated or extrapolated from remote measurements. So, Bob used basic survey methods – a metric tape and a Wilde T-1 theodolite – to make his measurements. And these were recorded on small, individual sheets of paper, all of which I imagine are part of the Van Nice files. He used Robert College students on an ongoing basis to assist him and I know that process. He liked to have pre-architecture students or architecture students and he would teach them briefly to go up on the scaffolding and he would give them a defined area of masonry to draw and he would say, “Draw it as it is.” Now that may sound self-evident, but if one works in the history of architecture and one works with architectural illustrations of buildings, one sees there is often a great deal of stylization or schematization, so that instead of showing an ashlar or a stone-built wall in which the shape of each stone is properly measured, you’ll see a schematic system, which is called “ashlar”, and then something else: instead of measuring the size of bricks, it will be a schematic thing – “brick.” That’s exactly what Bob did not want working at Hagia Sophia to be like. He wanted things to be drawn as they were, so he would send a student up on the ladder and you would measure the size of each of those stones and record it and then measure it a second time to be sure that you have it right. And then these individual sheets would be, bit by bit, composited into larger and larger drawings. And the final drawings would then all be made in the basement of Dumbarton Oaks.

CM: Did Van Nice ever discuss his relationship with William Emerson and how involved he was in the project?

CLS: His relationship with –?

CM: – with William Emerson?

CLS: No, Bob never really talked much about his relationship with people. Every now and then, when he was talking about how this got started or that got started he would say, “Oh, well then I wrote to Mr. Emerson and asked him this,” or, “Then I wrote to Mr. Emerson and Mr. Emerson suggested that.” I think he had a great respect for Mr. Emerson, but they were – Bob always looked up to Mr. Emerson as a senior and he always referred to him as Mr. Emerson, never as William or whatever it may be, even though the difference in age between Bob and myself was, I’m sure, just as great as between Bob and Mr. Emerson.  Bob was always Bob to me and Mr. Emerson was Mr. Emerson. So, I don’t know, he never talked really at all about the years in Isfahan or the early years of the Hagia Sophia project. He never talked much about his personal life. We knew that he worked for O.S.S. during the Second World War, but to my knowledge to his dying day he would never reveal the nature of the work he did and he was intent upon keeping the oath which he must have made when he was inducted to the Office of Secret Service, never to disclose the top-secret information that he had, even though all of what he had done had long since been no longer declared secret. I had a clearance, top-secret clearance, when I was in the Counterintelligence Corps, but everything that I did is now public information and I have no hesitation telling anybody what my activities were as a Counterintelligence Corps agent. They’re of no value to anybody.

CM: And did you get a sense of what Van Nice’s feelings were at the end of his project, once he was retired?

CLS: Bob’s last years were very unhappy. The death of Barbara really crushed him and he became severely depressed and withdrawn. In the course of his last year, he also had an embolism in his leg, which frightened him greatly, because he feared that if he got too far away from a hospital that it would kill him or something like that, so – and the last year of his life, even when we were in Washington, we would call Betty and say, “Could we come out?” “No, Bob doesn’t want to see anybody.”  So, I think his obligatory retirement came very hard to him. I don’t know that there were any overtures that were made that he could continue to work on the drawings after his retirement, drawing simply his retirement pay from, I guess TIAACREF. I have no idea whether that was ever offered to him. My guess is it probably was not. I think those who were responsible for those decisions at Dumbarton Oaks were really quite happy to have this termination. As we all know, the survey is not complete. There are four major drawings that were never concluded and some smaller ones, so how long would it have taken to complete these? Who knows. He was frustrated also by this pressure put on him to write, which he was incapable of doing. He was – he became very anxious when he was told that he had to stop smoking and stopping smoking was extremely hard for him. I was a smoker and so I’d come down to the basement of Dumbarton Oaks – and to you people, this must be inconceivable to you, but you could smoke anywhere in Dumbarton Oaks – so I’d come down to the drafting room and start talking to Bob and I’d pull out a cigarette and he’d say, “Can I have one?” and so forth. I’d give one to him and this was the one cigarette he’d had in two days or something like that. He was just waiting for me to come, so he could smoke a cigarette along with me. In 1968, when – I spent two longer stays at Dumbarton Oaks – 1968, I was still smoking and I – well, was it – yeah, it was in ’68 – I had an office in the main building, on the second floor, in the west part of the building near the entryway. And we all smoked. I mean, Jerry Folda was there – he was the only non-smoker – Penny Mayo was there; she smoked, I smoked, and so forth. Paul Underwood was a chain-smoker; his office was right around the corner. Bob was a chain-smoker. I mean, Dumbarton Oaks, was – smoke just emanating out of all the windows. So, I mention that, because for Bob it was really hard to stop smoking and it contributed, I think, to his depression in the end.

CM: Do you have anything else you’d like to add for this portion?

CLS: I can’t – I think you’ve reviewed his life quite well. Obviously he was an important person in my life, both from a professional and very much from a personal standpoint. And he was very generous. There was no one before or after him who did things like he did in the way he did. We forget that he not only did the Hagia Sophia project, but he was called upon for many, many other kinds of things. He went to St. Catherine’s on Mt. Sinai. He tells the famous story of going there with George Forsyth, of the University of Michigan, who was co-director of the project. This is à propos methodologies, as a footnote. George brought with him the latest photogrammetry people. They were going to do a photogrammetric survey of the basilica. And Bob carried with him his T-1 theodolite. Bob watched as these people set up a long rail running from the apse all the way out the western – through the narthex. It was absolutely – it was leveled and centered and it took them two days just to install this rail. And this was the rail on which the theodolite was supposed to be placed. In the course of these two days, Bob had, with using his T-1 theodolite, already drawn the ground plan [laughs]. So, this was à propos his attitude toward the new technology. You know, it took him two days; before they’d even started with the theodolite readings, he’d finished with the T-1. No, it was a very special pleasure to have known Bob as well as we did.

CM: Thank you very much. I think that concludes this part. [Tape stops, then resumes.]

GV: My name is Günder Varinlioğlu. The date is May 2nd, 2012 and today I have the pleasure of interviewing Cecil Lee Striker, who is retired professor in the department of History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. This interview is being recorded for the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives in Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, located in Washington, D.C. Before we begin, do I have your permission to record this interview?

CLS: Yes.

GV: For the record, can you please state your full name?

CLS: My full name is Cecil Lee Striker.

GV: And the first part: I’d like to talk a little bit about the fieldwork projects that you were involved in. Would you tell us about your fieldwork experience before you launched your first project in Istanbul?

CLS: My initial fieldwork was involved with a dissertation project that never came to completion. My dissertation advisor was Richard Krautheimer, a professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, in his day probably the leading architecture historian teaching in the United States, a specialist in the first instance in early Christian architecture, author of the grand work on the Corpus of Early Christian Basilicas of Rome, later author of the standard handbook on the history of Byzantine architecture and Byzantine – early Christian and Byzantine architecture in the Pelican History of Art Series, and teacher par excellence of virtually every major architecture historian in America from about 1940 to his retirement in 1971. He sent me off with pleasure to work on a project entitled “Byzantine Elements in Ottonian Architecture.” I was interested as much in early medieval western architecture as I ultimately became in Byzantine architecture. And I was interested in the connections between them. The interest was focused initially on a particular building, the Bartholomew Chapel, in Paderborn, Germany, which is a wonderful, small chapel, with domical vaults, very un-western and rather Byzantine. And we have the account of the life of the bishop who commissioned this, Bishop Meinwerk of Paderborn. His Vita was written about eighty years after his death and it was stated in the Vita that this chapel was built by Meinwerk “per Graecos operarios”, by Greek workmen. And that is one of the very few really concrete indications that we have of any relationship between Byzantine architecture and western medieval architecture. The relationships in the figural arts, on the other hand, are extremely well known, being, first of all, portable arts. We have Byzantine manuscripts, Byzantine metalwork, cross reliquaries – I just looked at the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this past week on Byzantium and the Orient and admired once again the J.P. Morgan Cross Reliquary and so forth, which looks so Byzantine that it must be – and probably is not. So, while the relationship in the figural arts is a well-explored subject and can be clearly documented, the relationship in architecture is less so. So, I went off to Germany in 1960 with a Fulbright Scholarship to study Ottonian-Byzantine relation. And in the course of the two years that I was there, much of my quote-unquote “fieldwork” was spent in going to visit buildings and learning how to read them in terms of their structural history, learning how to record them photographically, both in color slides and in black-and-white photography, and then learning to make systematic field notes showing structural history and general architectural history and what-have-you. So, I was in this respect – even though I was a Krautheimer student, even though I had worked for one long summer with Richard Krautheimer’s chief architect in Rome on the early Christian churches of Rome and had learned a great deal about building archaeology and so forth – much of this that I did in these two years was autodidactic, learning by teaching yourself. In later years, it became clear to me that I was working at a distinct disadvantage in comparison to my German colleagues working in the field. And the reason for this was because the field of buildings research or buildings archaeology is actually an academic discipline in Germany, so you can go to a technical university and you can take a course on surveying, you can take a course on chronology, you can take a course on excavating buildings – you can do all of this with a theoretical background underlying any fieldwork that you then do. And then all of these major technical universities have their own field excavations. We have an enormous amount of archaeology in the United States, but absolutely none of it is devoted to the academic discipline of buildings archaeology, so my fieldwork was mostly simply dealing with buildings as they stood and making records. To the extent that excavation was involved, I was more an observer of several excavations that were underway at that time, excavations at a place called Unterregenbach, for example. And in the second year of my Fulbright, I worked there as an assistant for something called The Corpus of Pre-Romanesque Churches in German-Speaking Lands, which ultimately came out as a two-volume work, published by the Central Institute for Art History in Munich. And I had gone from the University of Marburg to Munich in order to be able to work in this Corpus, which was in the course of preparation. So, I got a good deal of experience of going out with the Corpus people to buildings. They were really professional buildings researchers and so I learned a lot from them and I learned it in alphabetical order, because that’s the way in which the Corpus was being assembled. And I’ve forgotten what letter we were at that time – Unterregenbach: we were pretty far along by then. And the two volumes are sitting on my shelf here and, although my participation is not acknowledged, I do feel that I made a certain contribution to that. In any case, I was, by then, quite knowledgeable about architectural surveying, about reading buildings, about how to distinguish relative chronology of joints. I had a certain degree of sophistication about how best to render things graphically. This was twenty-five years before the appearance of the wonderful book of Tufte on the visual display of quantitative information, which is sitting right here [points] on my shelf, I think. It’s a book that – when I read it – it was like Saul on the road to Damascus. I mean, I read it from cover to cover, because everything Tufte had to say were things that I had been teaching my students – less eloquently than he put it – but nevertheless, showing exactly what the best way is to render this kind of information. And that brought me to ultimately the Myrelaion, the Bodrum Djami, which, in the beginning, I really thought I was only going to survey.

GV: But why Myrelaion, when you were in Istanbul?

CLS: Myrelaion, because Myrelaion, which is undoubtedly a church built by Romanos I around the year 920 – it has no inscriptions, but we’re quite sure from topographical descriptions of the city, from the quote-unquote “style” and size of the building, although I don’t like to rely upon these factors as a basis of dating; it’s been attributed to Romanos for many, many years. And the excavation which I ultimately carried out there didn’t give a firm inscription saying, “This building was built by Romanos I, Emperor,” and so forth, but it did give pottery and some coins from the early part of the tenth century, which secured, more or less, the date of construction. The Myrelaion has elements in it, which look very Romanesque and somewhat un-Byzantine. And a building like the Bartholomew Chapel in Paderborn had elements in it that are somewhat un-Romanesque and rather Byzantine, resembling the Myrelaion. The Myrelaion has very distinctive external semi-circular pilasters surrounding the building and relating to the interior articulation of the space. And there is virtually no other building that we have that has this kind of arrangement, so for me it was extremely interesting as a building, one of the few surviving that showed elements that were common, at least, to late Ottonian, pre-Romanesque architecture in northern Europe. So, that’s why that building was of specific interest to me. I have to point out, for those who may not be familiar with the field, how poorly provided we are with surviving Byzantine buildings from this earlier period. It’s pretty hard to estimate, but I’ve written a collaborative article some four or five years ago in the journal Architectura entitled “Quantitative Indications about Church Building in Constantinople,” and we’ve calculated that probably no more than five percent – five percent – of the buildings that were ever built in Byzantium survive. That’s a generous estimate. So, it shows that we can have literally hundreds of years with no buildings or maybe one or two and with one or two buildings it’s very hard to establish what you might call a period style, which on the basis of quote-unquote “typology” can serve as a dating tool. So, the Myrelaion fit very nicely into this consideration of Byzantium and the West.

GV: So, how did you get a permit to excavate at Bodrum Djami? Which Turkish authorities and individuals were involved in the process?

CLS: The Bodrum Djami or Myrelaion – Bodrum Djami means “Cellar Mosque” or “Basement Mosque” and it has that name, because it’s a church, which is raised on a sub-structure of almost the same height as the church. Some scholars have actually called it a so-called “double-church”, which it is not. The sub-structure was erected in order to bring the floor level of the church up and level with an adjoining, much earlier building, a rotunda, probably a fourth, early-fifth century late Roman rotunda, which may never have been completed, which was then vaulted over and used as the base for a palace or residence of mansion that Romanos presumably also built and was ultimately turned into a convent, a female monastery. The sub-structure was accessible by doors and windows and in 1931 the English scholar David Talbot Rice had made a sounding in the sub-structure. He dug out one portion of the fill in the sub-structure and published it in a very brief article giving no information, really, about the pottery or finds that he kept – if he kept any of them at all – and leaving the rest of the sub-structure unexcavated. I applied for and received a permit to survey the building. And when I first came to Istanbul, I met the then-curator of Roman and Byzantine Antiquities at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, Nezih Firatlh, and Nezih Firatlh was a wonderful man. He had an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of Byzantine Istanbul. He was everywhere in the town – whenever a new excavation was made for foundations of a new building, Nezih was there, looking at it, making a record of it and what-have-you. And he was also a great encourager of people. He was really my patron for all the years that he was alive that I was working in Istanbul. He was enormously helpful in the Kalenderhane project, so when my permit came through to do the survey, he said, “Why don’t you excavate the rest of the sub-structure and see what’s down there, because Talbot Rice never found anything?” And I said, “Oh, do I need a permit for this?” He said, “I’ll take care of that. You need a permit, but I’ll take care of it.” And I said, “OK, well, I’ve done a little bit of excavation, but I’m not really an excavator in the first instance.” And he said, “This should be a fairly easy one. It’s only a small area.” But I said, “It’s extremely difficult to get the earth out of there, because it’s fully surrounded by buildings and what-have-you.” He said, “You can work that out.” I had a modest fellowship from the American Research Institute of Turkey in the first year of its existence and I lived at the American Research Institute of Turkey building, which was a wonderful mansion belonging, formerly, to the Köprülü family, right on the seawalls of the Sea of Marmara. My window looked out on the Sea of Marmara. So, I didn’t have many expenses and with this modest fellowship I hired an excavation crew, which consisted of a truck, a ten-ton truck and three diggers, and I had the good fortune that the excavation of the Church of St. Polyeuktos at Sarachane was going on right at that time. This is an extremely important excavation, a chance find in the early 1960s. When a big boulevard was being built underneath the Valens aqueduct, the bulldozer turned up two very large inscription fragments and it so happened that both Ihor Ševčenko and Cyril Mango were in Istanbul at the time and as soon as these fragments were turned up – of course, Nezih Firatlh was right on the spot, had the fragments brought to the Archaeological Museum courtyard, and he grabbed Ševčenko and Mango and brought them there and there was this bit of things and that bit of things, which they copied, and then they went back to – maybe they went to ARIT; I’m not sure if the American Research Institute had it at that time. They could have gone to the German Archaeological Institute and pulled out the published Palatine Anthology, which is the compilation of inscriptions of Istanbul, and I think it’s the first or second entry is the inscription of the Church of St. Polyeuktos and there they found it and so they could identify it as St. Polyeuktos immediately. And they got in touch with Dumbarton Oaks and asked whether Dumbarton Oaks would provide the funds for a rescue excavation, which they did, and Dumbarton Oaks commissioned Martin Harrison to carry out the excavation that was really an expert job of digging. The pottery specialist was John Hayes, then already a known specialist in late Roman pottery, and John agreed to do my pottery, so I was extremely well served. Sarachane was a half-mile away from me, so at the end of each day, John would come down the hill from Sarachane and look at the pottery that I had dug up at the Myrelaion and he carried most of it back to Sarachane and had it washed and mended there, and so forth. And had it drawn up, so he actually – I ultimately published this work in a small monograph published by Princeton University Press and John Hayes publishes the pottery there, as well. So, the excavation at the Myrelaion was put upon me and offered to me; it was not that I sought to do the excavation and that’s how that came about and that’s what ultimately gave rise, then, to the Kalenderhane project.

GV: But before we get to Kalenderhane, did you have any relationship or collaboration with the German Archaeological Institute team working at the Rotunda?

CLS: No.

GV: OK, well, I believe they were working there in 1965-66.

CLS: No. No. No, no. They began working there in 1966 and my project at the Myrelaion was in ’65. Naumann was very – Rudolf Naumann was then the Director of the German Archaeological Institute and I knew him, but not well. He was much older. I had met him in 1961, when I first came to Istanbul and actually stayed at the German Institute, in ’61. And Naumann was extremely interested in the whole rotunda-palace complex and had then, knowing that I had done the limited excavation of the church, applied for and received permission to excavate on the surface at the rotunda, to lay free the foundations of the palace-mansion-monastery – whatever it was. And he did this with my quote-unquote “consent” – I mean, not that he really had to ask me, but he was courteous enough to say, did I have any intention of moving on to that? I said no, I didn’t. I was now going to start the Kalenderhane project. He said, “Well then, I’d like to do so.” So, he undertook the excavation at the top of the rotunda, in which he laid free the surface remains of the palace. We knew the plan of the palace, because it was already reflected in the sub-structure within the rotunda and that was published by Wulzinger in 1931, so that was no secret. The most interesting part, find in Naumann’s excavation – it’s a story, which everyone knows, so I’m not being caddy if I tell it – Nezih Firatlh, as was his wont, visited all ongoing projects in Istanbul almost every day. He came to Kalenderhane almost every day during the entire, during his lifetime. And on a particular day, he came to the German excavation in 1966 going on at the Bodrum Djami. And he sees a pile of earth and lying on the top of this pile of earth, ready to be dumped away, is, in porphyry, a broken-off heel of an individual almost – not life-size, about half life-size – and he picks it up and it takes him – in his own words, as he told me, “It took me thirty seconds to recognize what this was.” So, he took it back to the German Archaeological Institute and he washed it up, got it nice-looking and so forth, and then he phoned Naumann. And he said, “Professor Naumann, I’d like you to come to my office.” And Naumann thought it was to discuss something about drawings and plans and so forth. And he said, “I’d like you to come fairly soon.” And this was described by Nezih to me. Naumann arrives in the office and he says, “Please, have a seat.” He said, “Professor Naumann,” – he was very respectful – “Do you see that piece of porphyry?” He said, “Yes.” And he said, “I found this on a rubble heap at your excavation this morning. Do you know what it is?” “No, I’m afraid I don’t.” “It’s the foot of one of the tetrarchs immured in the corner in San Marco, in Venice.” He said Naumann practically fainted on the spot. And indeed, a plaster cast was made and sent to Venice and it fits exactly in the foot of one of the tetrarchs and if you look at any photograph of San Marco and get a good photograph showing the corner – this is the southwest corner – the tetrarch who is immured right in the – and it’s my idea – though it’s never been published – that the ship of the crusader was anchored in the port of Theodosius, the great port that’s just been excavated, and that the tetrarch group probably was, as we all – as the text suggests – was put on display at a place called the Philadelphion and when it was robbed and carried down to the port, that the foot got broken off in that vicinity of the Myrelaion and that’s why it was found there. This is – [Tape stops, then resumes.]

CLS: – of the article was published by Naumann in Istanbuler Mitteilungen in 1967 with thanks to Dr. Nezih Firatlh, but not telling the story as I’ve told it. My connections to the German Archaeological Institute were mostly friendship connections. My Myrelaion project was of considerable interest, so the Byzantist at that time was my dear friend Otto Feld, who just died five months ago, a lifelong colleague and close friend. Later on, during Kalenderhane, I was quite friendly with Urs Peschlow and ultimately invited Peschlow to become one of my collaborators at Kalenderhane to publish the sculpture and the brick stamps. And I knew quite well, on a personal basis, all of the subsequent directors of Rudolf Naumann and we saw a great deal of them and the fact that my wife was German also linked me, as well, to the German community of Istanbul.

GV: So, I gather that the Myrelaion project was pretty small, but who were the main team members? Who did you work with?

CLS: Well, it was me. It was very small. It was me, it was Selcuk Batur, who did the drawings, John Hayes, who did the pottery, and then it was Bahaattin and Sabahattin and what’s the third name? These are the three laborers, who did the digging. And Bahaattin was so good. They all belonged to – they were part of a truck crew, a ten-ton truck crew consisting of five people and this was the truck that took away my earth, among many other things that they did. They all came from a small village. The village had no name. It was called “Our Village”, “Bizimköy”. And the only way they could describe it was that it was a five-hour walk to the city of Van in eastern Turkey. It shows you how remote they were – a little remote, agricultural village a thousand miles away. And this group came to Istanbul every summer or spring to get work. I mean, when the fall came, they took the bus to Istanbul and God-knows-where and worked. And I don’t know how I first made a connection to the truck, but then Bahaattin was, he was a lovely man, was a wonderful excavator. We found that in the late Byzantine period the sub-structure of the Myrelaion was used actually as a burial crypt. The building was badly damaged by a big fire, which is well documented, in 1203. And it was restored – it probably lay vacant during the period of the crusader occupation. And it was then restored in the Palaeologue period. And the restoration debris was all dumped in a chute into the sub-structure. It was an easy place to get rid of debris. We modern people with big trucks and bulldozers and what-have-you don’t realize how difficult it was in the pre-modern age to dispose of the debris of demolished buildings, when you did a reconstruction project, so this was a place where the disposal area was right at hand, so they dumped it in there and then they dug into this and they had a series of burials and Bahaattin was an excellent excavator of skeletons. But, he didn’t like doing it at all. He was a very fine excavator. He also discovered a quite large fresco of a donatrice, a standing woman, I mean a standing figure of the virgin and a kneeling woman, a donor. And Bahaattin once said, “I had a dream that that woman came and she slapped me in the face, because I had disturbed the grave of one of her relatives,” or something like that. I mean, that really got to me in the most extraordinary way, that this excavation of the skeleton had touched this excavator in the way that it had. That was the Myrelaion team.

GV: And Ernest Hawkins, I believe, worked on that.

CLS: Well, Ernest came by about once a week, sometimes twice a week, to see how things were doing. But he wasn’t part of the team, really.

GV: What about Ercument Atabay? Is that when you met him?

CLS: That’s when I met Ercument, yes. Ercument was a very good friend of Bob Van Nice’s and also a good friend of Paul Underwood’s. Ercument’s wife was English and Ercument became an advisor to – first to Whittemore, of all things, because of his English and Turkish, and he did a lot of translating for the Byzantine Institute and then he kept up his friendship with Paul Underwood, so when I first went off to Istanbul in ’65 I was given Ercument’s name and they were very hospitable to me. I was frequently invited to the Atabays’ for dinner. But they played no role in the actual project.

GV: The project was entirely supported by ARIT. You did not receive any other funding?

CLS: That’s not entirely true. It was mostly supported by ARIT, but toward the end of the excavation I was – I mean, I wasn’t paying a great deal – but I was running out of money and so I wrote to Paul Underwood and said, “Paul, I’ve got about two more weeks to go, but I’m flat broke. Can Dumbarton Oaks help me out?” And he said, “I’ll send you five hundred dollars, but don’t tell anybody.” So, I got five hundred dollars from Dumbarton Oaks.

GV: Did Bob Van Nice contribute to the project?

CLS: In no way other than occasional – I don’t think he ever came to the Myrelaion. Not really, no. When I started working with Selcuk, we occasionally went to see Bob and asked him about surveying methods, but Selcuk was a very good surveyor and Dogan Kuban, the professor – his department had a Wilde T-1 theodolite, so we were able to use this theodolite at the Myrelaion and ultimately, also, at Kalenderhane and that made Bob very happy, that the Wilde T-1 theodolite was still holding its own as the best survey instrument.

GV: So, had you met Selcuk Batur through Dogan Kuban or the other way around?

CLS: Yes, I met Selcuk through Dogan Kuban, yes. I was told to go see Dogan, who had been a Dumbarton Oaks fellow three or four years before, so he was known at Dumbarton Oaks and so forth, and Paul Underwood said, “Go see Dogan Kuban.” And Dogan was very helpful; he said, “I’ll give you my research assistant as your architect,” and I said, “Well, that would be really helpful,” and so Selcuk became, first of all, my architect, but also my very close friend.

GV: And you ended up publishing your book with Princeton University Press. I’m wondering whether you ever approached Dumbarton Oaks for publishing it.

CLS: I did.

GV: And?

CLS: Well, it was turned down. The story I was told was that, at that point, Cyril Mango was running the field program and he passed it around with his comments, saying, “Barely worth an article, if at that.” Mhm.

GV: I think that explains it.

CLS: Mhm. Yeah. And to this day, Cyril never misses an opportunity to cast aspersions on the Myrelaion work. Whenever he refers to it, he always says, “An unnecessary publication,” and so forth. He loves to heap abuse on it. The book otherwise got wonderful reviews and sold extremely well and went out of print very quickly, so I was quite happy. I’m not the only one to have been abused by Cyril Mango all of his life.

GV: So, in this wonderful book, you use one photograph by Nicholas V. Artamonoff. How did you find out about this?

CLS: From Bob Van Nice. Bob said, “We have this wonderful collection of photographs by a man named Nicholas Artamonoff,” and he said, “The only reason we have it is because I went to Jack Thacher’s office and I said, ‘Jack, I’m not going to leave this office until you promise to accept this collection.’” Because Nicholas Artamonoff offered it to Dumbarton Oaks and they said, “We’re not interested in it,” and then Artamonoff told Bob and then Bob went to Jack Thacher’s office and started – I don’t know, figuratively speaking – yelling and screaming and saying, “You’re absolutely so crazy and stupid – this is a very important collection!” And then the collection was accepted. And so Bob said, “Go to the Artamonoff photographs and look for the Myrelaion,” and there it was.

GV: Now for the logistics of the fieldwork: where did you stay?

CLS: I stayed at the American Research Institute in Turkey. The American Research Institute in Turkey was founded in 1964 as a consortium of then seven American universities, one of them being the University of Pennsylvania. The first president was a professor of Turkish studies at Columbia, Tibor Halasi-Kun and Tibor Halasi-Kun was a good friend of Fuat Köprülü, a distinguished Turk diplomat, scholar, and what-have-you, an enormously wealthy man. And the Köprülüs had a villa on the Sea of Marmara, which they no longer occupied. It was for rent. And so ARIT agreed to rent the villa from the Köprülü family and they rented it from 1965 through 1968, for three years. And then Fuat Köprülü died. The children could not agree on the continuation of the rent. They wanted to raise the rent by 50% and ARIT didn’t have the money. So, we vacated the building and we moved many places. We moved to Beşiktaş – that was our first move. But I lived the summer of ’65, ’66, and ’67 in the Köprülü villa, just below Sultan Ahmed.

GV: I found a letter from Ercument Atabay to Paul Underwood, which indicates that you had a very good relationship with Turkish authorities –

CLS: That I did?

GV: Yes.

CLS: Oh my. OK.

GV: And you were trusted with the key of Kalenderhane, which was rarely given to anyone. Would you elaborate about your contacts in Istanbul and how your good standing during the Bodrum Djami project contributed to acquiring a work permit?

CLS: It’s news to me [laughs]. I had very good relations with Nezih. I behaved myself, I didn’t go carousing around, I was a responsible scholar. I knew what I was doing. I got along well with my Turkish colleagues. I made an effort to learn to speak Turkish, which was appreciated. And the getting the key to get into Kalenderhane – we actually, they couldn’t find the key; we had to cut the lock, actually, to get in – was really thanks to the energies of Dogan Kuban, who had already at that time – we were all much younger, of course, but he already then had students working for the Vakiflar, Vakiflar being the monuments office, which owned all the mosques in Turkey. So, he was the one who arranged permission to get into the building. So, it was my good relationship with Kuban and his connection to the Vakiflar, which gave us original access to Kalenderhane. And then, when Dumbarton Oaks agreed to undertake its first campaign of Kalenderhane in 1966, there were three people named, to whom the permit was given: Kuban, myself, and Nezih Firatlh, for the excavation. So, I had two well-placed Turks as my co-collaborators for the Kalenderhane project permit and it was partly by virtue of that and partly by virtue of the fact that I made perfectly clear, once it became known, that I was not an employee of Dumbarton Oaks, and that I had absolutely nothing to do with the acquisition of the silver treasure, and that I didn’t know anything about the silver treasure until it became known to everybody else, and that I did not approve of the silver treasure – I didn’t make a big point of it, but when asked I said, “No, I don’t approve of it.” I didn’t oppose it; I mean, you don’t kick your donor in the face. So, I didn’t make a big issue of it. But all of these contributed to my innocence of the sins of Dumbarton Oaks in the eyes of the Turkish authorities.

GV: So, from the very start did you plan to restore the building or was it a consideration that came about much later? So, what was in the original permit application to the Turkish authorities and how did you present the project to Dumbarton Oaks? Was it, from the very beginning, a big project, or did they want to have a reconnaissance survey in the beginning and keep –

CLS: In the beginning, the first season was seen, really, as reconnaissance. We didn’t know anything about Kalenderhane in the beginning. We didn’t know its name, we didn’t know whether it was one building or a multiple-phase building, we didn’t know the date of anything, we didn’t know whether it had mosaics, frescoes, floor mosaics or what-have-you, or anything like that. We didn’t know nothin’ [laughs]. So, we couldn’t really present a project in the way that the Munich Monuments Office presents the restoration of the Munich City Hall with a full set of drawings and color-coded things of sections of masonry that are going to be replaced and so forth. I mean, that’s the standard way in which preservation proposals are done, in which you presumably have a foreknowledge of the monument that you’re going to deal with. We had – we didn’t know. So, much of what happened at Kalenderhane happened in an incremental way on the basis of what had just been found the year before. We made an initial sounding in already the first year, in the northwest corner of the building, on the exterior. We had already more or less decided that we would excavate in some fashion the triangular area between the building and the Valens aqueduct, an area of about a quarter of an acre. And we made a sounding; we made a five-meter grid – a box and bulk system of layout and we laid free two of the rooms of the Roman bath. We didn’t know it was a Roman bath until we got it fully excavated and so forth, but that’s what then piqued the interest of the people at Dumbarton Oaks to grant us an additional season. And then Cyril Mango came along and Paul Underwood retired and Cyril became the head of the fieldwork project – fortunately for only one year, because his first act was to say, “This third season is the last season of Kalenderhane.” And I fought him tooth and nail and I won, but it was very tough. I mean he was going to close that project down come hell or high water. One of the things that helped me was that in 1968, which was to be the last year – ’68 or ’67? Yeah, ’68 – we discovered in that season the St. Francis frescoes and the pre-iconoclastic mosaic, I mean two of these spectacular finds. And when we sent photos to Dumbarton Oaks, I’m told that Cyril sort of drew a deep breath and gasped, that these things had come out of this building that he called – he always talked about Kalenderhane – I mean apart from the abuse that he heaped on the Myrelaion, he always talked about the Kalenderhane as a second-rate building. And of course we found out that Kalenderhane was not one building. It was four buildings. Yeah.

GV: My next question will bring us briefly back to the beginning, but why did you decide to work at Kalenderhane and not, for example, St. John Studios, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, any other building?

CLS: I can answer that very simply, because I was working on establishing the historical position of the Myrelaion. And what were the buildings, what were the immediate antecedents? Well, there was the Theotokos Church of Constantine Lips, securely dated by inscription to 908. And then there was the eight or ninth century building of Kalenderhane, probably the Church of Akataleptos, which in the end, of course, it wasn’t. So, I wanted to see Kalenderhane in the context of understanding the historical trajectory that ultimately produced the Myrelaion. And, of course, it had – even then it was clear that it had nothing to do with the Myrelaion. It looks nothing like it. But, it was a building, which, in the literature – even if you pull Krautheimer off the shelf at that point: “eighth, hyphen, ninth century, question mark,” and so forth. So, I wanted to see it. And that’s why I asked permission to get inside of it and then came my report and then came the invitations, so I mean it was – most of these were a question of fifty percent accident and fifty percent choice.

GV: Would you describe your work at Kalenderhane? What did the project entail? Were you the supervisor of the excavations? Were you responsible for the architectural survey for the conservation or restoration work? So, how was the division of labor on site, especially between you and Dogan Kuban?

CLS: There was no division of labor. I was responsible for everything.

GV: So, what was everything?

CLS: OK. All those things that you said and many more. I let him take credit for the restoration, because he was also a professor of restoration and I was not. I was also seven and a half years younger. I was, in his words, an art historian and not an architect. These were all causes of resentment toward me. We had a very difficult collaboration, but I never spoke ill of Kuban in all of those years and I acceded to demands he made, which I felt could be granted to him without seriously compromising the project. I did not accede to those demands that I felt compromised the project and I insisted upon those things, which I felt were necessary for the project to go forward: for example, to find somebody to replace the pottery person, whom he had arranged for, who turned out to be impossible. This was Ayyüz Toydemir, born Sabuncu, whom he had gotten through the professor of pre-history, Halet Çambel. He said, “The pottery person has to be a Turk.” “OK. So, who?” “Let me take care of it.” “OK.” So, there shows up this woman and she spoke limited English at that point. Well, she was a pre-history student of Halet Çambel and Dogan had called Halet Çambel and said, “Send me a pottery person.” I was later told by Revza Ozil, who was also a student of Halet Çambel, that Halet chose her worst student, because she didn’t think Byzantine pottery was of much significance. And that’s the person she sent to us. And that was a problem for me through the entire – right up to the publication of the pottery report and after one year it was clear that she was impossible to run the whole task, so I insisted upon getting Judith Herrin and the two of them clashed through the entire project, of course, but I said, you know, “We’ve really got to have someone who understands what the nature is of excavated pottery and how to manage things,” so I was responsible for everything. I had the good fortune of having Ernest Hawkins, who did the preliminary conservation of the frescoes and all of the conservation of the pre-iconoclastic mosaic and who also had trained our three master masons in the years of the Byzantine Institute. All three of them had worked both at the Kariye and at Fenari Isa Djami and at Hagia Sophia, so they were all three trained conservation masons. They knew how to make bricks, they knew how to make joints, they knew how to do, really – they came to me with all of this training, all of which they got from Ernest, who was a trained master mason. I mean trained in London as a master mason and brought to Istanbul by Whittemore for the Hagia Sophia project. So, I had Ernest Hawkins’, really, expertise in the materials and methods of actually working with the materials.

GV: And let me just mention the names of the three craftsmen, for the record. I guess these are Bari –

CLS: Zeki, Bahri, and Halil. Exactly.

GV: Yeah. Bahri Soydas, Zeki Soydas – I guess they are brothers.

CLS: They are brothers, yes.

GV: And Halil.

CLS: Halil, Halil Aktay. Good for you, yes. Yeah.

GV: So, the problems in your relationship with Dogan Kuban started very early, already by 19 –

CLS: The first week, probably.

GV: Why did you continue to collaborate with him?

CLS: Well, because I saw the potential of this project. What was the nature of the problem? I mentioned it. I was much younger; I was not an architect, which galled him most of all; I represented the money; I was Dumbarton Oaks’ official representative, so without me there could be no money. And he knew that, despite all these fatal deficiencies – being seven and half years younger, being an art historian, not an architect, and so forth – despite all of these fatal deficiencies, he had to work with me to a certain extent, because I represented the money. And then on several occasions, he had to admit that I knew what I was doing. He did this so reluctantly. We built a small office – we had several offices in the project where we could write and do our books and so forth and so on. And although I am not an architect, I know how to design. And so I designed the first office and we built it within the building. And we built it in three days, I think, or four days and Kuban came. And he came in and he said, “Who designed this?” I said, “I did, Dogan.” And he: “Pretty good job.” He had to grant that. He thought it was Selcuk, probably, who’d done it. No, I had done it. And he had to grant it. I knew where to put a staircase. I knew where to put a window and so on. I had the most rudimentary architectural knowledge and so on. But, he had no idea what was going on at Kalenderhane. He had no idea. He had – he was not a buildings researcher. He had grand conceptions. The first church on the site of Kalenderhane, which we ultimately called the north church, had a very strange ground plan because of its strange position right next to the aqueduct. And the south wall of its apse formed part of what would ultimately become a corridor in what would be the prothesis in a normal Byzantine church. It was completely un-illuminated, absolutely black unless you had a lamp or something in it. And we discovered it by penetrating the wall and coming up against an earth-filled area, which we laid free and so forth, and we found this very slightly curved wall – didn’t know until later ultimately what it actually was. So, when we laid it free, Dogan arrived to see – he came, at the most, once a week for maybe an hour, just long enough to disrupt everything that was going on. I mean, his standard thing: he would go from person to person and say, “This method that you’re using is no good. Do it that way.” He’d go from one to one to one to one – through the entire site. And everyone was trembling, of course, and so forth, but they ultimately learned, “OK, so you follow what Professor Kuban says and as soon as he leaves you just go back to doing it the other way.” And that went on for the entire remainder of the project. Everyone was informed about the Striker-Kuban difficulties. Well, the business of understanding how to read architecture: I said, “Dogan, we’ve laid free this wall, which has a slight curve to it.” He said, “It’s a straight wall.” I said, “Dogan, it’s not straight. It has a curve to it” “Lee, I’m an architect. It’s a straight wall.” I said, “Dogan, I’m not an architect, but why don’t we try an experiment? Would you at least give me two minutes to try an experiment?” “OK, what do you want to do?” I said, “Dogan, you stand here, OK?” I was smoking at that time. I pulled my cigarette lighter out of my pocket, I lit it, and I held it against the wall. And I said, “Now, I’m going to walk along this wall and you tell me that you’re still seeing the light of the cigarette lighter.” And of course it disappeared behind the curvature. So, as it disappeared, he said, “OK, so it is a curved wall. So what?”  But I mean this was so characteristic of the kinds of arbitrary arguments and differences, which we had, and the fact that he truly had, until the bitter end, absolutely no concept of what we had found there. So, although the report in the first volume on the architecture is coauthored by Kuban and myself, it is entirely written by me and it was sent to him when it was already in page proof form. Yep. I treated him the same way he treated me, so there could be no changes made in it.

GV: But you had wonderful collaborators, team members, in the project like Urs Peschlow –

CLS: Like who?

GV: – Urs Peschlow?

CLS: Oh yeah, yes.

GV: Would you talk about other team members and their contributions to the project?

CLS: One of the things that Dogan Kuban insisted upon was making this project appear to be a Turkish project. So, he kept saying to me, “If you think this is going to look like Sarachane,” – that’s the Dumbarton Oaks excavation of St. Polyeuktos – “you’re wrong.” Because Sarachane was entirely English archaeologists, archaeological students, and what-have-you. There were a couple of Turks who worked on Sarachane, but it was basically staffed by English. So, we took archaeology students and they – none of them had been trained in stratigraphic excavation. We site-trained almost everybody who worked for us. The ultimate team of younger Turks who worked for me was built through the acquaintanceships that they had, beginning with Selcuk and his students, and then the students of Dogan Kuban. Dogan had some really wonderful students. I mean, with all the difficulties that I had, he was regarded by his students as a god. And indeed people came to the technical university in Istanbul in order to study with Dogan Kuban. And I had the benefit that he would send me his best students. He began by sending me Selcuk and that was wonderful. So then we had Orhan Bıçakçı, who was also his student; he was unfortunately killed in a wreck of an airplane in the Izmir airport, a crash of a Turkish airliner, so we lost Orhan. But then I had Ayla Ödekan, I had Ödekan, I had Berge Aran. Well, one after the other of these very good people working for me in one capacity or another, coming either through Kuban, Istanbul Technical University, or through the Istanbul University art history connections. And I ran them all and I told them all, “I will employ you for two weeks and at the end of that time I will say whether I’ll keep you on or not.” So they were all put to trial. I was different from virtually any other excavation in that I paid everybody and I was criticized for this. I was told, “This is not the usual way to do things,” so I said, “I’m doing this for a specific reason. It’s a kind of symbolic appreciation and recognition of their professional activity, which they are doing.” So, they were paid a pittance, but at least they were getting a salary for the tasks that they were carrying out. Some Turks worked for me through the entire project: Samim Şişmanoğlu worked from the beginning to end and then he married the woman who worked on our glass, Gül, maiden name was Başağa – her father was a well known Turkish painter and muralist; if you go to several of the ferry stations, there are great murals by her father – they both ended up in Vienna working for the Austrian conservation service and they still live in Vienna. So people like that stayed with me for the whole time. I had one Greek Turk: Pandeli Zorides and Pandeli was excellent, but he wanted to be an archaeologist and he saw that there was absolutely no chance of his getting anywhere in the Turkish archaeological service, so he immigrated to Greece and his last job was ephor of the Classical Ephoria in Corinth, of all things. So we had this long run of very confident people and Kalenderhane was an attractive project, because it was in the city and it had good people and it was run decently and in that respect I was very fortunate.

GV: But you didn’t have many American students?

CLS: I wasn’t able to bring them. They didn’t have the money and I didn’t have Kuban’s permission. Ultimately, when the time came to start putting the architectural survey into a publishable form, I could see that I needed somebody here in Philadelphia with whom I could and who would help me to make, also, all of the analytical drawings that I knew would be necessary. As time went on, the form of the publication took shape in my own mind, so I could project in advance what I would need in terms of the kinds of skills to produce the many, many illustrations in the project. In one famous meeting I had at Dumbarton Oaks – this was before the Senior Fellows Committee existed – there was an Advisory Committee, which Giles Constable had brought together: Ševčenko, Father Meyendorff, a woman – who was the pre-historical archaeologist at Harvard? I can’t think of her name. And I was called to appear before them. None of them had any idea about archaeology. There was only one comment made during this brief meeting: “Too many illustrations.” Yeah. Anyway – so, we had these very good architectural students of Dogan Kuban’s, but they worked for me for doing the drawings, doing the summer campaign, but that was the end of it. And in about 1973 or ’74, a young woman walked into my office at Penn and from the moment she came in I knew she spoke with a Turkish accent and she said, “I see that you are doing a seminar on Kalenderhane next semester. I wonder if I could participate in it.” And I said, “Well, can I ask you a bit about, you know, what is your, what –” She said, “Well, as you may notice, I’m Turkish. I’m also an architect. I work for Lou Kahn and I’m very interested in Istanbul and Byzantine things. I go to Istanbul every summer with my daughter. I’m divorced.” And I said, “Well, this sounds very interesting,” so she took my seminar and then as I came to know her – her name was Reyhan Larimer – I thought, “Oh boy. This is really going to be the solution. She’s an architect. She’s half-Turkish. She’s working for me and not for Kuban. She lives in Philadelphia. So, none of the accusations that Kuban had brought against me in terms of my incapacities – “You’re not an architect, you’re not a Turk, and so forth – couldn’t be brought against her. So I wrote to Dogan and I didn’t say, “May I –,” I said, “Dogan, I’m bringing a Turkish woman as one of the architects this coming summer.” And there’s no reply, absolutely nothing. And Reyhan is so nice and so diplomatic; she got along splendidly with Dogan. But, there was too much for her to do and so I started employing the son of my colleague John McCoubrey in the wintertime to begin making analytical drawings and I saw what a wonderfully good draftsman he was, so then I invited Dan McCoubrey to come and join Reyhan, so then I had two architects working for me. I didn’t ask Kuban’s permission for that either. I said, “I’m using this man as a draftsman in the wintertime and I want him to learn the project and so –” And he was a wonderful draftsman. So in the end, I had as my non-Turkish collaborators – you see them all spread over the two volumes of the Kalenderhane book – there was Reyhan Larimer and Dan McCoubrey as architects, Judith Herrin on the pottery, Michael Hendy for the Byzantine coins, Urs Peschlow for the sculpture and the brickstamps. The question of the historical topography is a very long story. I’ll compress it very briefly. A good friend of Judith Herrin’s was a man named Paul Speck, a very good Byzantine historian, professor in Munich. He was a Senior Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks five years ago. He died a horrible death of stomach cancer. And he was interested in the topography of Byzantine Constantinople, on which he’d published, and so I invited Paul to write the historical topography part of the thing, because it had to do with the question, really, of dealing with the wording of texts and my Greek is not up to the kind of philological and textual work that would be necessary for that. And I invited Paul to come for one season to Kalenderhane. Like many text-based people, he was incapable of dealing with non-textual information. That’s one of the intrinsic problems with Dumbarton Oaks. In the Center for Byzantine Studies, they’re dealing with two absolutely antipathetic groups: the art historians and the few archaeologists, who are the non-textual people; and the text-based and the historians and so forth, neither of whom understand one another’s methodology or how it works. And a better example could not be given than that of Paul Speck, I mean, who just didn’t want to understand the chronology, first of all. He was a highly intelligent man and I explained to him how stratigraphy worked and if you had a coin of Constantine VII you knew that, I don’t know, 964 was the terminus post quem and anything thereafter – “Yes, I understand that, but how do you get terminus ante quem?” I mean he just wouldn’t understand it. And so then the time came to publish volume one and almost everything else was done and – nothing from Paul. Paul could only publish if he had a brilliant idea or if he could prove somebody else conclusively wrong. Everything else was beneath his dignity. I mean, the correspondence is in my archive. You can read the whole spectra. It’s wonderful. This was all very friendly. And I said, “Paul, just tell us what the state of knowledge is, even if you can’t solve the problem.” “Oh, das ist unterhalb meine Würde. That’s beneath my dignity.” And then, suddenly, I get a letter from Paul, saying, “Dear Lee, I’ve got a solution. I gave a seminar on Kalenderhane and one of my students has solved the textual problem.” And the textual problem was that we knew that our building was dedicated to the mother of God, Kyriotissa, Ta Kyrou and if you look in the standard text on the churches and monasteries of Constantinople, by Father Janin, and you look for Ta Kyrou Kyriotissa, that building is mentioned no later than the seventh century and it’s located right next to the land-walls at least three miles away from our Kalenderhane. And we know that there are many, many errors in Janin, but nobody could sort that out. I couldn’t sort it out, Paul couldn’t sort it out, what-have-you. Well, here comes this text from Albrecht Berger and he shows that in the typika of the Church of the Forty Virgins – the typika is the charter of a monastery – there is mention, there is what is called a perioismos, which is the description of the boundaries owned by the monastery, so it tells you, “You start here and you pass this and you pass this and you pass this and you turn left and you pass this and you pass this and then you pass the Church of Ta Kyrou and you do this and so –” And that’s just exactly where Kalenderhane is, so – bang – it’s nailed down in the Palaeologue period. It absolutely is that. And we got a fresco from the eleventh century also with the virgin Ta Kyrou, so Berger solved it. Berger’s now a full professor in Munich, editor of Byzantinische Zeitshrift.

GV: Senior Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks.

CLS: Senior Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, exactly. Yeah. And he got his start right there.

GV: So, while this brings us to Dumbarton Oaks, we all know that you have a funny relationship with Dumbarton Oaks –

CLS: What kind?

GV:– a funny relationship, a difficult relationship with Dumbarton Oaks. Before I get into that, I would first want to address the beginnings of your relationship with Dumbarton Oaks and the time you spent there in Washington, D.C.


GV: So which years were you at Dumbarton Oaks, in residence?

CLS: Well, my first knowledge of Dumbarton Oaks was in 1959, when the symposium on the Kariye Djami, sponsored by Paul Underwood, took place. Dumbarton Oaks was a quite different place in those years. It was a small, exclusive men’s club – with one exception: Sirarpie der Nersessian. And you really had to have permission from Christ Pantokrator in order to get into that at any lower level. I’m exaggerating, of course, but the idea that a graduate student could just simply sign up and come to a symposium – furthest from the mind, and so forth. But I had become interested in things Byzantine and I wanted to go to the symposium and this was 1959. I had never been to Istanbul but of course I knew about the Kariye, so my teacher, Richard Krautheimer, wrote to his distant cousin, Ernst Kitzinger, who was the Director of Dumbarton Oaks’ Byzantine center, saying “Dear Ernst, I have a student, who is interested in Byzantine things and he would like very much to attend the Kariye symposium. Would you grant permission?” I mean, Ernst was fifteen years younger than Richard and there was no doubt that I would get it, but he still had to go through the formality of requesting permission. So, that was my first ever exposure to Dumbarton Oaks, 1959, Kariye symposium. Between then and 1964, I may have gone there as a reader on a couple of occasions, but I don’t have much of a recollection of any real relations at that time. In the course of that, I came to meet people like Paul Underwood and Father Dvornik and, of course, Ernst Kitzinger, who was Director of Studies. But then I got my ARIT fellowship, which was intimately concerned with a Byzantine building, of course, and was enthusiastically supported by Paul Underwood, who was the Dumbarton Oaks representative to the American Research Institute in Turkey. So, that began in a certain sense what would ultimately be a continuous and ongoing relationship. Oh no, I’m sorry. I had a memory lapse. Back up the film [laughs]. There was indeed a significant period of my relation to Dumbarton Oaks before that and this was in the spring and summer of 1962. I had gone to Germany on a Fulbright. I had one year at the University of Marburg and most of the second year at the Technical University of Munich, mainly to work with the pre-Romanesque archive at the Central Institute For Art History, but by about March or April I really had finished all that I felt I needed to do with the German, Ottonian things and I really wanted to learn more about the Byzantine relations that I might be able to make to this. And I, “The proper place for that is Dumbarton Oaks.” So with the permission of the Fulbright commission, I was able then to terminate my residence in Germany and then at the at the end of March or beginning of April of 1962, I moved to Washington. And I rented a room in Georgetown and became a reader. I was in Dumbarton Oaks from the end of April until the beginning of August of that year, so that was a significant period of residence, which I totally – I got it chronologically out of place. And it was in the course of that period of time that I came to know quite well the entire staff at Dumbarton Oaks, so Julia Warner, who was then editor of the Dumbarton Oaks Papers; I came to know Bob Van Nice much better, because he was, part of that time, in Washington; I came to know Paul Underwood quite well. I was allowed to come and pay for my lunch at the Fellows’ Building, which I did a couple of times a week in order to meet the people there and so on. And I was given a desk in the readers’ room, which was the big room on the second floor where outside readers had their desks. And so that was really very nice. I had a good time and I read a lot and got a lot of work done and tried to start writing this difficult thesis; and then I went off, of course, in August to Poughkeepsie, New York, to start teaching at Vassar College. So that was my first period of residence at Dumbarton Oaks. Then began the Kalenderhane project and my initial relations were very good, because these were composed of the invitation from Paul Underwood and from Ernst Kitzinger to undertake the first year of the project. At the end of that year, Ernst went to Harvard and Paul retired and was succeeded by Cyril in that position. And the Director of Studies appointed as successor to Ernst was Bill Loerke. And then the problems began.

GV: Before we get there, would you talk more about Dumbarton Oaks? For example, how was the academic and intellectual scene at Dumbarton Oaks? What were your impressions throughout your residency at Dumbarton Oaks?
CLS: I don’t recall that I had any strong impressions, one way or the other. I came to know – I mean, younger people who were there were very busy, as well they should have been, with their own research projects, as was I. We didn’t have a lot of time to just carouse about and do things and we didn’t have a lot of money for an active social life. And because you could smoke anywhere in the building, we didn’t have to go outside and have a cigarette together and so on. And I met and came to know people like Gordana Bobić and I would occasionally go out with them and every now and then Julia Warner would invite all the younger people out to her country club for dinner and that was very nice, but there wasn’t what I would call an academic atmosphere. There were no general meetings or get-togethers, at least that I would be a part of, because I was not a part of Dumbarton Oaks; I was an outside reader. And I had no reason to have problems with Dumbarton Oaks, so there were no, none of the subsequent problems that I had. I would occasionally hear these terrible stories about Dumbarton Oaks from people that were there, but I attributed them to minor – I mean, the best I can think of about the problems of Dumbarton Oaks: David Wright was a Junior Fellow when I was there, a medievalist retired from Berkeley, a very bright but very difficult man and I’d known him for quite some time and he said, “Good luck with this place.” He’d been a fellow for this year and he said, “I’m having a horrible battle with,” – who’s the Antioch man? Who was the librarian? Antioch, the big history of Antioch; what was his name? Then went to California. I’m losing my mind. [Gets up to find book on shelf.]  Who’s the Antioch man? Oh, come on. Help me, somebody. [Tape stops, then resumes.]

CLS: David said, “Good luck with your visit here. I’m having a fight to the death with Glanville Downey,” who at that time was the librarian of Dumbarton Oaks. I said, “What’s this all about?” He said, “It’s about the Times Literary Supplement.” I said, “So what’s the issue?” He said, “Well, I believe the Times Literary Supplement is a newspaper and Glanville Downey believes that the Times Literary Supplement is a journal.” And so he wanted to move the Times Literary Supplement from the Fellows’ Building, where it was always available on the table if you came in on the right, so you could pick it up after lunch and read it or, if you happened to be living there, after dinner. He wanted it to be in the journals, in the journal room at the library. And David was leading the crusade to keep it at the Fellows’ Building. And he was collecting signatures and writing petitions and what-have-you. And I listened to this and I said, “David, I don’t understand the problem. Why don’t you just get a second subscription?” “It’s the principle! That’s not the issue!” So that gave me my first hint of how there could be battles fought at Dumbarton Oaks simply over principles – is the Times Literary Supplement a journal or is it a newspaper? And then already in that summer there were serious battles about who would have permission to swim in the swimming pool. That was a major protocol issue and it went through questions like, “Were you a full professor or were you only an assistant professor? And did you have tenure or did you not have tenure?” I mean these were issues taken into account as to whether your children would be permitted to swim in the Dumbarton Oaks pool and so forth. When I heard these stories, I said, “Sounds like a complicated place.” But I really had no problems of my own at that point.

GV: Well, on this note, I suggest that we stop today and continue our conversation tomorrow. And thank you very much.

CLS: OK. Alright. What time is it? Oh, OK. Yeah. [Tape stops, then resumes.]

GV: My name is Günder Varinlioğlu. The date is May 3rd, 2012. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Cecil Lee Striker, who is retired professor at the department of history of art at the University of Pennsylvania. This interview is being recorded for the Image Collection and Fieldwork Archives and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives in the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, located in Washington, D.C. And this is the second day of our interview with Professor Lee Striker. Before we begin, do I have your permission to record this interview?

CLS: Yes.

GV: For the record, would you please state your full name?

CLS: Cecil Lee Striker.

GV: Yesterday we talked about your life, your academic career; you told us about your first project in Istanbul, namely the Bodrum Djami excavation that you directed in 1965 and ’66. We also started talking about the Kalenderhane project, which was sponsored by Dumbarton Oaks. You told us about the logistics of fieldwork: what you did, how you cooperated with Dogan Kuban as part of that project. And you also told us about your stay at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. Today I would like to continue with the Kalenderhane project. Along with the excavations at Sarachane, directed by Martin Harrison, Kalenderhane was a blockbuster project financed by Dumbarton Oaks. During this long relationship you had with Dumbarton Oaks, we know that there were problems. What went wrong at what point and why?

CLS: I can’t point to a single turning point from which time things remained problematical and difficult. Perhaps the first fly in the ointment was when Cyril Mango succeeded Paul Underwood as the chairman of the so-called Fieldwork Committee. It was really only a committee of one, the person in charge of managing Dumbarton Oaks’ various Byzantine field projects. And Cyril Mango was never terribly friendly to the kinds of things that I’d do. I don’t think there was any personal animosity toward me. That was really not the issue, but he considered my work at the Myrelaion really to be of little consequence and although he was not really consulted when the Kalenderhane project was initiated, by the end of the second year he had come to Dumbarton Oaks as head of the fieldwork activities and he announced that the third season would be the last season at Kalenderhane. There was no reason given for this. I was told by Jack Thacher, who was still Director of Dumbarton Oaks, that one of the reasons was that he wished to have the twenty-five thousand that would be paid for the fieldwork season – that gives you some idea, actually, of how little the Kalenderhane project cost, when you can run a whole season on twenty-five thousand. He wanted that money to buy a Land Rover, which he hoped to use for the not-yet-to-be-begun – and in the end never begun by him – excavations at Amorium. I heard this from the primary source, Jack Thacher, the then-director. This effort on the part of Mango to terminate the project was unsuccessful. I fought very hard and really put upon Ernst Kitzinger, who by then had gone to Harvard University as a professor but who still played a major role at Dumbarton Oaks and was able, really, to muster a sufficient amount of support so that Mango’s decision was not carried out. We had also the very good fortune in the course of the third season of discovering the two major works of art, if I can use that term, of the project: the fragmentary fresco cycle of the life of St. Francis of Assisi, painted when the building was obviously occupied by the crusaders, and the pre-iconoclastic mosaic of the presentation of the Christ child in the temple, which had been immured between two walls and which we now date to the end of the sixth century – and it’s therefore the only surviving Christian wall mosaic from Constantinople prior to iconoclasm. When these two discoveries were told to Dumbarton Oaks, there was a sort of gasp of relief, in a certain sense, because until then virtually all of Dumbarton Oaks’ fieldwork was focused on works of fresco painting and mosaic. That was Dumbarton Oaks’ conception of fieldwork. Their first encounter with excavation was the emergency excavation, which they agreed to finance, at Sarachane, St. Polyeuktos, which turned out to be ultimately an extremely important excavation from the standpoint of the history of architecture and especially architectural decoration, the result of a chance bulldozer turning up large fragments of the title inscription of the church – the church could then be identified and then Martin Harrison was invited to carry out this excavation. And it was an expert excavation. Although Dumbarton Oaks was the sponsor of this, at that point Dumbarton Oaks had virtually no conception of what was required for archaeological excavation. They had given bits of money here and there to various archaeological projects, but had really no first-hand experience of their own archaeological project. And it was really Martin Harrison who, very forcefully and sometimes with a great deal of conflict, introduced to Dumbarton Oaks all of the requirements for sponsoring a field archaeological project. The consequence of this was that when I came along with the Kalenderhane project and its excavation three years later, my task was made somewhat easier by the groundwork and preliminary instruction, so to speak, which Martin Harrison had given at Dumbarton Oaks. I should preface any further comments about difficulties I had with the obvious comment that everybody who knows anything about Dumbarton Oaks has commented about. And that is that it was an intrinsically difficult organization to manage. While one may admire the wishes of Mr. and Mrs. Bliss to create an institution in their own image, reflecting their various interests and wishes, when you look at it from the outside and take away the personalities and the prior activities of the Blisses, it’s an enormously difficult place. It’s fragmented into so many subsections. The overall purpose is three-fold, three utterly different activities: landscape and garden activity, the museum, and the research activities. And then if you just look at the research activities and the collecting, they are in turn divided into three completely different entire areas: the Byzantine and early medieval, the Pre-Columbian, and then the collection of garden and landscape books and prints. So, trying to fuse all of these elements into a coherent organization is enormously difficult. I’m an experienced academic administrator and, looking at Dumbarton Oaks, I don’t know whether I could run that place any better than the many directors who have attempted to do so. Cyril Mango left Dumbarton Oaks very shortly after he came, so I had no further difficulty in, sort of, tug-of-war with him to continue with the Kalenderhane project. But he was succeeded in the Director of Studies position – not directly, but indirectly – by Bill Loerke. Bill Loerke was appointed on the recommendation of Ernst Kitzinger and his appointment was enthusiastically supported by the new Director, William Tyler. And Bill’s new claim to fame at that point, if I can use those terms, was that while he was chairman of the department at the University of Pittsburgh, he fought off Helen Clay Frick’s effort to intervene in the selection of faculty after she’d given large sums of money to Pitt. And so he was seen as a very tough individual and as having the necessary toughness that was believed necessary to run Dumbarton Oaks. In the end, he was quite incapable of running Dumbarton Oaks and this became quite apparent very early in the game to anybody who was dependent upon the Director of Byzantine Studies for whatever they were doing. I needed, at the very least, money to run the Kalenderhane project and for the fourth season I only was able to find out that Dumbarton Oaks was going to pay for the fourth season in April of the summer that I was supposed to begin it. Fortunately, ultimately the damage that was being done by Bill Loerke’s directorship finally made it to the Trustees for Harvard and he was relieved from the position of Director of Studies and shortly thereafter William Tyler also resigned from the directorship and was succeeded by Giles Constable. I can say that – what everybody, I think, who knows the situation at that time – it was really Giles Constable who saved Dumbarton Oaks, at least as it is now constituted. At that time, there were tremendous animosities and arguments going on. There was a group of people who felt that the research aspect of Dumbarton Oaks should be moved to Harvard, to Cambridge, Massachusetts. The actual physical, material aspect – the buildings and the landscape and what-have-you, the gardens – by formal deed had to stay there, but it appears that there was no formal trust that forced the research activity to remain in Washington and there was a group that lobbied the trustees of Harvard to permit it to be moved. There was, of course, a group very much in favor of Dumbarton Oaks, everything staying just where the Blisses had assumed that it was supposed to stay. And in fact there were battles, public battles in the press and what-have-you. Giles Constable came into a very messy situation and was really able to straighten the place out to the extent that it could be quote-unquote “straightened out.” He was even-handed, he was energetic, he appreciated what the Blisses had done. At the same time, begin an outstanding scholar himself, he also understood the requirements of scholarship that were needed to sustain the research activities and he went after these quite energetically and quite sympathetically. To my great surprise, within weeks after his appointment as the new Director, I had a phone call here in Philadelphia: “Can I come up and see you to talk about Kalenderhane?” That was the first time that there was really this positive interest in what was going on at Kalenderhane on the part of the higher direction at Dumbarton Oaks. So, Giles was very helpful and we got the project pretty much back on an even course. My supervisors at Dumbarton Oaks were made very much aware of the problems that I had – of collaboration with Dogan Kuban, the efforts of Kuban to prevent any non-Turks participating in higher or even lower levels of the project, Kuban’s animosity not toward me personally but toward what I represented, namely being a number of years younger, not being an architect, not being a Turk, and, most of all, representing the money. So, despite all of these very, as far as I was concerned irrelevant, ill feelings that Dogan Kuban had toward me, the one that galled him most of all was the knowledge that if he made life too difficult for me, I would pack up and leave and that would be the end of the Dumbarton Oaks support of the project. So I was able to sustain the project vis-à-vis Dogan Kuban not by virtue of the quality of the project, not by virtue of our achievements, not by virtue of the things that we found, but only by virtue of the fact that I controlled the funds that made the project possible. It’s not a very nice way to have to sustain yourself, but it was really the necessary way. I had problems on two fronts. I had my problems with Dogan Kuban on the Turkish side and I had my problems with Dumbarton Oaks on the American side. When the Senior Fellows Committee came into existence – and it was a very long process: administrative change from nothing at all, to a small Advisory Committee, to the Director, to a somewhat larger committee, and then to several predecessors, and then finally what is now called the Senior Fellows Committee. When they came into existence, they became a major irritant in the further progress of my project over all of the remaining years of the project.

GV: So when was that? When did it come into being? Under Giles Constable?

CLS: It came into existence under Giles, yes. And then it –

GV: Late ’70s?

CLS: When did Giles become Director? Mid-’70s, I think.

GV: 1977 to 1984.

CLS: OK, so in ’77 he became Director. Right. Because of the structure of the Dumbarton Oaks organization, the Senior Fellows Committee slowly moved, in terms of its authority, from an Advisory Committee to an Executive Committee. Let me give you an example. Giles was succeeded as Director by Robert Thomson and Robert was a decent man and a perfectly honest, good, very good scholar, Armenian specialist, but he really looked upon his role as Director of Dumbarton Oaks as a custodial situation – five year appointment and he stayed very much out of the running of Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks drifted in those five years. And in the course of that, I was working on the preparation of the publication of Kalenderhane and I needed small amounts of money to pay for research assistants, for photography, to pay for drawings – Kalenderhane has an elaborate set of drawings, in the opinion of some, of many, but that’s beside the point. And in 1984, I was told that Dumbarton Oaks was going to stop paying for the subvention of the publication and I went to Dumbarton Oaks and I had a long discussion with Robert Thomson. He called in Slobodan Ćurčić and Herbert Kessler, who were both members of the Senior Fellows Committee at that time, and it was agreed upon that funding for preparation of the Kalenderhane file report – and we’re talking about sums in the magnitude of something like $5000. This was hardly a vast expense for Dumbarton Oaks. It would be continued and would be overseen by a committee made up of Herb Kessler and Slobodan Ćurčić. And that was put into writing by Robert Thomson in May of ’85. In September of 1985, at the first meeting of the Senior Fellows, it was decided that this agreement would not be honored. And I was told that this agreement by the position of the Senior Fellows was cancelled. And I said to Robert, “So, excuse me. I have your written confirmation of something that took us a long time to work out. It will do me no good to pursue this legally, but I find this to be an unacceptable intrusion and a violation of a signed agreement.” The response of Robert Thomson was, “This is beyond me. I’m sending it to the Harvard legal division in Cambridge.” And within a very short period of time, a couple of weeks, the reply came back. I think it was from a man named George Steiner, who was the general counsel of Harvard University. “Professor Striker is entirely right. Please see to it that the agreement, which you’ve signed, is carried out.” That gives you some idea of the workings or, better stated, the non-workings of this organization. An agreement arrived at with the Director and two members of the Field Committee, denied by the Field Committee at its next meeting, not acted upon by the Director of Dumbarton Oaks, who could have acted upon it in some way, sent to the legal office of Harvard University in order to be confirmed. That’s no way to run an operation, if minor issues such as this had to be really negotiated through the legal office of Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. So, this is just a couple of examples of the kinds of problems that I was dealing with. Let me give you just one other example of the way in which the Senior Fellows Committee complicated almost to the point of impossibility my pursuit of the Kalenderhane project. I mentioned, in the first part of our discussion yesterday, the extreme difficulty that I had with the woman, whom my collaborator Dogan Kuban appointed as the pottery specialist at Kalenderhane. She was a pre-history undergraduate, a student of Halet Çambel, who was sent to us, as I was later told by one of her fellow students, because Halet Çambel thought that Byzantine pottery was not terribly important, so she sent to us her least competent student. And Ayyüz was sent to Sarachane for two weeks for a crash course in Byzantine and Ottoman ceramics given by John Hayes and then she came and began working as our pottery specialist. We had the benefit of further help by John Hayes, since the St. Polyeuktos-Sarachane excavation was less than a half-mile away from Kalenderhane. So, in a certain sense, like a continuation of what John Hayes had done at the Myrelaion, which was a half-mile away in another direction, John started coming daily to Kalenderhane at the end of the day, to see what was coming out of the earth. And so he was wonderful in being able to set these, in a certain sense, on a reasonable course and to tell us what the levels were that we were cutting into. One of the extraordinary problems of Ayyüz Sabuncu Toydemir is that she had, throughout the entire years that she worked for us, no concept of the role of pottery in archaeology. She memorized the particular fragments and fabrics and she had a good memory and so she retained this information. I always used to, sort of, suspect that the reason her memory was so good was because there was nothing else in the head to clutter it up. But, a typical example of how impossible it was to have this woman managing our pottery: in the second year that she was working there – and John Hayes was still coming and John would look at a tray of washed pottery and say, “Well, this is mid-13th century. And Ayyüz was standing there and she said, “But Mr. Hayes, what do you mean mid-13th century? Last year, you told me that this was probably end of the 12th century.” John said, “Well, we now know more about it and its context.” She didn’t know what he was talking about. She didn’t understand how a piece of pottery got its date in the first place and that, just as it got its date from the context from which it was found, so with further information this date could be specified more exactly or changed quite profoundly. It was not possible to have someone who failed to understand the role of pottery managing the pottery as the basis of dating what was ultimately a very complex archaeological site. And this is why I drew in Judith Herrin. Two years before the completion of the first volume – let me put these things in order. Dumbarton Oaks at that point ceased to give me any money.

GV: Do you remember which year that was?

CLS: It was in the early ’90s. Dumbarton Oaks gave me money from ’85 to ’86 or ’87 and at that point they cut it off, then. That brief agreement that we’d come to with Robert Thomson and the statement of Harvard’s legal office and so forth – it was so hard squeezing this money out of Dumbarton Oaks that I ultimately just gave up asking them for anything. And my dean at Penn helped me out with some things, but ultimately I set aside work on the Kalenderhane project, because it was going nowhere. And I was not really very confident that I would ever bring out the final report. For a number of years – the late 1980s and the early 1990s –  [Tape stops, then resumes.]

CLS: I’ve forgotten the specific year, but it may have been something like 1993 or 1994. I was sitting in my office at Penn and I had a phone call from the secretary at Dumbarton Oaks. And, “Is this Professor Striker?” “Yes.” “Well, this is So-and-so. I’m the secretary, assistant to the director. I have sitting next to me Ms. Ayyüz Toydemir and she would like to talk to you.” This is a phone call from Washington! “Hello, Mr. Striker?” “Yes?” “This is Ayyüz.” “Hello, Ayyüz. How are you and what are you doing in Washington?” “I have a summer fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks to work on the Kalenderhane pottery and I need my manuscript, which you have. Please send me my manuscript immediately.” I said, “Ayyüz, I don’t have your manuscript. In fact, nobody has it.” She said, “Well, you told me that you had given it to Dumbarton Oaks and when I arrived at Dumbarton Oaks I looked for it, but I couldn’t find it anywhere and they thought you had it.” I said, “I never gave it to Dumbarton Oaks and I never had a copy of your manuscript.” I had brief drafts of small sections, but I said, “If you were coming to work on this material, why didn’t you bring your own material with you?” “Well, I didn’t think I needed it.” So, I said, “Well, I’m sorry, Ayyüz.” She said, “I want all the pottery material that you have in Philadelphia that I’ve given you. Please send it all to Dumbarton Oaks.” I said, “Ayyüz, our department is right now in the process of moving and all of my office is completely packed up and my wife and I are leaving for Europe in about a week’s time. I’m afraid I can’t send you anything. You’ll have to make do as best you can.” So then I hung up and I called Slobodan Ćurčić, who either was still on the Senior Fellows Committee or knew what was going on, and I said, “Danny,” – that was his nickname – “what is the story? I had this phone call from my pottery person, Ayyüz, and it’s the first that I know of any effort on the part of anybody, on the part of Dumbarton Oaks or her, to come to work on the Kalenderhane pottery. She has been so impossible that I’m sure that all that she would do, if she indeed were to work on it, was to do further damage. But how did this come about?” And he said, “Well, as I understand it, it was Jean-Pierre Sodini, who was a member of the Senior Fellows, who thought that Striker was not moving ahead fast enough and he needed to be pushed by the Senior Fellows Committee and the best way to do that was to get the pottery finished up, so why don’t we just offer Ayyüz Toydemir a summer fellowship, which Dumbarton Oaks did without consulting or informing me. This is just another example of the way in which the Senior Fellows Committee operated, absolutely independent of any norms of collaboration, mutual consultation, or what-have-you. It was in those years – by this time, Angeliki Laiou had become Director of Dumbarton Oaks – it was in those years that I realized that if there was ever going to be a final report on Kalenderhane, it had to be taken completely out of the hands of Dumbarton Oaks. Otherwise, there would be endless back-and-forth about any financial subvention, you would be arguing about whether this particular sentence should have a comma or a semicolon separating two parts of it, whether there should be 38 or 39 illustrations for chapter four – and the decisions would all rest with the Senior Fellows, who met twice a year and would put off so I would wait for six months for a decision: was I going to have 38 or 39 illustrations for a particular issue? Dumbarton Oaks had become, in so many words, utterly impossible to work with, to see to completion the completion of the publication of this project, so that without the knowledge or consent of Dumbarton Oaks, I went to the publisher, Philipp von Zabern, in Mainz, which was well known as probably the premier archaeological publisher in the world. They were especially known for the absolutely superb quality of their illustrations. At that point the press was privately owned and the same family as von Zabern. The press had been founded at the end of the 18th century and already had a distinguished record of publication in the ancient field, nothing in the Byzantine field. I went to Mainz, made an appointment with the owner of the press, took with me some text samples and illustrations of materials of some of the things that we were dealing with – the architectural drawings, the mosaics and frescoes – and Herr Rutzen, the then-owner, gave me an almost immediate answer: “We’ve never done anything in the Byzantine field, but we would be thrilled to publish this very important project.” And I said, “I’m delighted. I know that you are a commission press. Would you give me some idea of the cost that I would have to bring in terms of subvention?” He said, “Yes, I should be able to calculate that in a week’s time.” And in a week’s time I had a letter or something like that – this was all pre-email – and it would be approximately $100,000. I said, “Thank you very much.” And so I started working on fundraising and I got a bit of money from the dean’s office, again, and from something the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation to keep things going at a slow trickle.

GV: And was this just for the first volume, or did you –

CLS: Well, my first, my initial idea was to have both volumes appear simultaneously, but as time went on it became clear that this was an impossible task. I was basically running a one-man show and I had a number of collaborators and assistants and so forth, but to try to get both of these volumes together simultaneously – as time went on, it became clear that it would be much wiser to get the first volume into print and that could be then put aside as used as the reference to which then the second volume could depend. And of course in preparing the first volume, many of the components of the second volume would, of course, also be prepared: the coin catalogue, the stratigraphy and the whole archaeological aspect and what-have-you; that had to be at least summarized in the first volume, so that work was going on. But the actual bringing of the volume up to publication-ready state, I thought, “Let’s do Volume One and then let’s do Volume Two. But the subvention estimate was originally thought of for the total publication. Within a few weeks or perhaps months of my beginning to raise money for this, my then-department-chairman Renata Holod was having lunch with a major donor to our department and university, Charles Williams. Charles was – is – a distinguished archaeologist. For many years he worked and ultimately directed the excavations at Corinth. And actually, because he was an extraordinarily wealthy man, he financed much of the Corinth excavation. Renata said, “Lee Striker, as a matter of fact, is –” Charles was talking about a Frankish level at Corinth that they had just found. And Renata said, “By the way, à propos Frankish Byzantium, you know Lee Striker, of course, has these St. Francis frescoes and his volume is now ready to go to the press.” And Charles said, “How much does he need?” And, “Well, he told me about $100,000.” Charles said, “OK. Well, I’ll call the bank on Monday.” By the end of that week, $100,000 was in my account for the benefit of the publication of Kalenderhane. None of it could be used here in Philadelphia to do preparation. That was all money that was to be sent to the publisher as the subvention. And before anybody else got their hands on this and so forth, I had the financial office write a check to von Zabern and send $100,000 to Mainz. And upon its receipt, Herr Rutzen wrote me. He said, “Striker, this is much too much money for just the first volume. What are we going to do about it?” I said, “Well, you can’t send it back to me and I can’t use it for publication preparation, because the terms of it were that it was only for subvention to the publisher.” He said, “Well, the only thing we can do, then, is to reduce the retail price of the volume appropriately.” So the consequence of this was that the volume sold for about one third of what it should have sold for and that low price was also carried over to the price of the second volume, so that’s how the publication was ultimately financed. It was taken completely out of the hands of Dumbarton Oaks. I didn’t have to ask them for anything. I know, not from her but from a second source, that Angeliki Laiou was absolutely furious with me for having done all of this without the knowledge or consent of Dumbarton Oaks – I ultimately told Dumbarton Oaks that I’d done this, but I didn’t say it in a way that I was asking their permission. In terms of the legalities of what I had done, I had the good fortune that my closest college friend was a very prominent intellectual property lawyer in New York City, so before making any of these big moves, taking it away from Dumbarton Oaks and what-have-you, I had this long consultation with Michael in New York City. What would happen if Dumbarton Oaks were to decide to legally claim its ownership of the material? And so we went over that whole question in all of its details, the ownership of the photographs, the ownership of the rights of publication and so forth and so on. And I was ultimately assured that – two things: Harvard has very good lawyers, because Michael had dealt with Harvard lawyers in other matters; and because they have good lawyers, they will recognize that I have the rights to do all the things that I was going to do. Michael was – Michael died about nine months ago, but he was the representative of the Tennessee Williams papers. He was the lawyer for the Tennessee Williams estate. And the Tennessee Williams papers are housed at Harvard University. And he said, “I’ve been in the practice of law for forty years and the worst problems I’ve had have been dealing with the lawyers of Harvard University on permission to produce Death of a Salesman and so forth here, Death of a Salesman there and so forth, or any of Tennessee Williams’ things.” He said, “The Harvard lawyers are – they’re very good, but they are tough as hell and not very pleasant to deal with.” But it was this assurance that, if Dumbarton Oaks were stupid enough to try to prevent me or to claim ownership of this material, that my legal position was very solid and that they wouldn’t do that. And indeed throughout this entire thing, there was never the slightest hint that Dumbarton Oaks was going to intervene. I thought that they might then get in touch with von Zabern Press and say, “Sorry, you can do it. This is ours.” Never any problem. And then when I ultimately consigned all of the Kalenderhane material, including all of the photographs and all of the negatives, to the archive of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, I again had a long, long discussion with Michael Reemer, my friend, about the legalities of that and whether Dumbarton Oaks might lay claim to that. And he said, “No, no, you’re on very solid ground.” So, I gave everything to the University of Pennsylvania and I signed a document much like the one I signed yesterday for this interview and so forth, giving all the legal rights of copyright and so forth, to the extent that I own them. And this was while Angeliki was – well, Angeliki was still Director? No, it was when Ned had become Director.

GV: Which year did you give your papers to –

CLS: I gave the papers three years ago.

GV: So, 2008. It was Ned Keenan.

CLS: It was Ned. Ned was Director. Yeah. I didn’t tell Dumbarton Oaks about this.

GV: Did Dumbarton Oaks ever approach you at all?
CLS: No, they did not. And I didn’t tell them I was doing this. All that I did was to put an announcement in the bulletin of the Byzantine Studies Association of America and to put an announcement in the bulletin of what’s called the Istanbul Circular, edited by the German Archaeological Institute and Boğaziçi and so forth. So I made the fact that these – I made public the fact that this was done, but I chose simply to have no written relationships to Dumbarton Oaks anymore at all about the body of Kalenderhane material, including not writing to them to say that I have sent this material. I thought this might provoke them in some sort of counter-thing, so – in the future, if Dumbarton Oaks wants to claim this, they’ll have to go to court against the University of Pennsylvania and they will lose. So, that’s the story of – in summary, so to speak – the kinds of problems that I had and the reason that I then ultimately withdrew completely from any relationship to Dumbarton Oaks, including even setting foot in Dumbarton Oaks. The first time that I set foot in Dumbarton Oaks in over a decade was at the Dumbarton Oaks symposium where my student, Günder Varinlioğlu, who is sitting directly opposite me right now, gave a paper in the symposium. And I do have another principle and that is: when my students give papers at major public things, if I can possibly manage, I always come. So I felt that that has priority over my staying away from Dumbarton Oaks, so I came to the symposium and actually had a very good time. But, I really, I made an absolute break with that organization and it was really because of the way they behaved toward my project. I don’t worry about the way they behaved toward me; the personal aspects were immaterial, but the way they dealt with this project – at this symposium, I was asked by the now-Director of Byzantine Studies, Margaret Mullett, “Lee, I’m so glad to see you. I would very much appreciate your advice about Dumbarton Oaks’ archaeological activities.” I said, “Well, Margaret, I’m probably the wrong person to ask, because my experience with Dumbarton Oaks was, over many years, extremely frustrating and difficult and my first answer would be, “Stay out of archaeology, because you don’t know how to support it.” But I said, “I’d be happy to talk to you some time in the future.” And then I was invited to several larger discussions, which Dumbarton Oaks has had, on archaeology and I thought I would best be advised just simply to stay out of it. I spent too much of my life dealing with Dumbarton Oaks in archaeology. So I went to none of these three different meetings and so forth. And my younger colleagues know exactly where I stand, so I don’t have to go there and make the point myself.

GV: I will bring you back to 1978, actually. There was a meeting on Constantinople and archaeology organized under the directorship of Giles Constable. Could you tell us about that meeting? What were the themes that were discussed and who were the participants?
CLS: Now I think that was the meeting that – it really wasn’t on Byzantine archaeology. It was on the publication of Sarachane and Kalenderhane. That was the purpose of the meeting. Representatives of Harvard and Princeton University Press were invited to the meeting. Martin Harrison and I were invited. Martin was flown from England. Nezih Firatlh, who was already quite ill, was in a certain sense commanded to come and he was flown to Istanbul for this event. And Dogan Kuban was flown, also. So, we talked for two days – oh my, my – about the requirements of publication – should we stop now? [Tape stops, then resumes.]

CLS: So that meeting was ultimately completely inconclusive. In the end, Princeton published Sarachane, not a very attractive publication by any means – I don’t know whether it was for financial reasons or what. I mean, for example, several of the chapters are published as photographs of typescript. It’s not even set type. It was typewriter. The typewriter manuscript was published as the report. And that’s really not very nice at all. And then the second volume was exclusively written by John Hayes, on the pottery. But that meeting really was devoted only to publication and I’ve already told my story of what the ultimate publication history was for Kalenderhane. There was another Dumbarton Oaks conference, actually a regular symposium. You want me to address that question?

GV: Yes, please. In 1998.

CLS: In 1998. And it was announced by early in the game. I heard nothing about it and I was a little surprised, but then I thought, “OK, Dumbarton Oaks is staying as much away from me as I am staying away from Dumbarton Oaks.”

GV: Could you tell us the title?

CLS: The title was – it was something like, “The Built Fabric of Byzantine Constantinople.” The two directors of the symposium were Bob Ousterhout and Henry Maguire. The newly appointed Director of Byzantine Studies was Alice-Mary Talbot, who is a very close friend of mine. And as the conference drew nigh, I called Alice-Mary and I said, “I’m a little bit surprised that nowhere does Kalenderhane, a Dumbarton Oaks project, figure in any way in this conference. Nobody’s gotten in touch with me. Is this an intentional exclusion?” And Alice-Mary said, “I don’t know anything about it. It was all arranged prior to my becoming Director of Studies and it was arranged under the specific leadership of Angeliki Laiou and if you really want to know, you should write Henry Maguire or Bob Ousterhout and ask them.” And I said, “OK. I’m going to do this in the following fashion. I will send you a letter and I’m going to send copies of my letter to you, to Bob Ousterhout, and to Henry Maguire.” And the conference took place. I did not go. Kalenderhane was mentioned again and again and again in many contexts. I was told that many people were surprised – “Why isn’t Lee Striker here? And why is Kalenderhane not in any way mentioned?” And so forth. But, no answers were ever given and no answers were ever replied, no words received, from Henry Maguire or from Bob Ousterhout. So, as best I could figure it out, there was an intentional exclusion ordered by Angeliki Laiou. This was her revenge, if you wish, for having snubbed Dumbarton Oaks a publication.

GV: Well those are all my questions regarding Dumbarton Oaks, but if there are others that you would like to add, we’d be happy to listen. Otherwise, I will move on to the other projects that you were involved with in Istanbul.

CLS: OK. Fine.

GV: I know that you were the archaeology consultant for the construction of the subway system in historic Istanbul, in the old peninsula. Could you talk about that?

CLS: Yes. This was the summers of 1985 and 1986. Ute and I were at dinner, upstairs, and the telephone rang. It was seven o’clock or something like that and a man introduced himself and he said, “I’m the vice president,” or whatever, “for the firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff.” He said, “I don’t know whether that means anything to you, but we are the largest transportation engineering firm in the world. Just to give you an idea,” he said, “it was Mr. Brinckerhoff who invented the third rail when we built the New York subway. And we also built BART in San Francisco; we built the Washington subway. And we have the contract from Ankara, Turkey, to do the feasibility study of a sub-Bosporus rail tunnel and a 25-year prospective study of mass transit for greater Istanbul. And part of our contract calls for us to have an archaeological consultant. Would you be interested?” And I took a deep breath and I said, “That sounds fascinating to me. I don’t know much about transportation engineering.” He said, “Well, that’s our business.” He said, “Can I come down and talk to you?” I said, “By all means.” So, about a week later, he appeared here in Philadelphia and we had a long talk and he wanted to know what my archaeological experience was. And I explained this and he said, “Sounds fine to me,” and the agreement was that I would work for them for about a month, a month and a half, the summer of ’85, and that I would do the same the summer of ’86. And the intervening winter, from Philadelphia, I could send in any reports, correspondence, what-have-you. That was perfectly agreeable to them. I didn’t really know what my role should be and they didn’t know. This was simply placed in the contract by the authorities in Ankara. So, I thought, “Well, one way to find out about this would be to find out what they did when they began constructing the subway in Rome.” So on the way out to Istanbul in ’85 I stopped in Rome, which I did normally anyway, and I went to the superintendente and said, “Can you tell me: who are the people who were the consultants for the construction of the Roman subway?” And they said, “Well, So-and-so and So-and-so. So I went to see them, explained to them why I was coming to talk to them, and that my job was to do consultation for the subway in Istanbul. And they said, “Oh, how fascinating,” and so forth. And they gave me a big deal of literature reporting on how they had set up their methodologies and what-have-you. Then, when I got to Istanbul, in the first week or so, when I met this entire team – they had an office very close to the German Archaeological Institute, just overlooking the stadium there, a large office, four or five large room; and there must have been six or eight people employed there. Four of them were Americans; three of them were Turks. And in our initial discussion it was quite clear to me that they thought that I was to give them instructions: what do we do if we’re digging a hole for a subway station and we find a Roman mosaic? How do we raise and conserve the mosaic and deliver it to the appropriate archaeological authorities? And without them stating this in so many words, I preempted their attempting to conceptualize my job by saying, “I think you’re probably expecting me to tell you what to do if you find a Roman mosaic, but I visualize this job fundamentally differently.” I said, “I’ve been to Rome and talked with the people who advised the builders of the Roman subway, how they went about doing things, but there is a fundamental difference between Rome and Istanbul. For the city of Rome, we know pretty much inch by inch everything that is still underground and that has never been excavated. We have, for example, something called the marble plan of Rome, which is a plan of the whole city of Rome engraved in marble and preserved in fragmentary – but large parts of it are preserved, so when they were designing the subway, even before excavation they knew they were going to hit this building or that building or the other building. We don’t know anything about Byzantium, Constantinople, or even early Istanbul. The city is basically unexplored. That’s problem number one. Problem number two is: the archaeological work that you will be required to do will not be a conventional kind of work. You will not be located at one site and will be able to make slow stratigraphic records. You’re going to be working at five or six or seven different places simultaneously. You’re not going to know what you’re coming upon until you come upon it and then you’re going to want to get it out of your way just as fast as possible. So, it’s my idea that I write a methodology that respects these kinds of demands, that you establish what I called an archaeological commando team, a small group of people, preferably resident in Istanbul, who could move from site to site as the requirements arose to record rapidly what essential information there is and to record things that you may not think are terribly important, like pollen, so that we can find some idea about what was growing in Constantinople in the 10th century, pottery fragments, small things of no intrinsic value in terms of being beautiful works of art or what-have-you, but of enormous value in terms of our understanding of the history of the city and seen from the very broad standpoint.” Well, they scratched their heads when I told them about that and they said, “Well, this is all very interesting and you’re very persuasive. We’re not sure that we can persuade our supervisors in Ankara, who gave us this contract, that this is what should be done. But why don’t you at least write up several pages describing your method and we will take it to Ankara and we’ll see what we can do. And several weeks later they took my paper to Ankara and they came back from Ankara and they said, “Well, they had the same reaction that we had. We thought when you had an archaeological consultant that he was going to tell you how to preserve a mosaic if you found it, but what this man Striker is saying makes very good sense, as far as what the actual project may indeed encounter. So my long report, which I wrote in the summer of ’85 and completed in the winter and summer of ’86, is included in the 25-volume feasibility study, which ultimately was the basis of the tunnel and subway project. The reason that Parsons Brinckerhoff took this feasibility project on is because they hoped to get the contract for the actual work. But they didn’t get it because the Japanese government offered the Turkish government much more subvention than the American government was willing to do for the tunnel and for the subway. So the Japanese got the job, but they used the Parsons Brinckerhoff feasibility study for the alignments of the tunnel and what-have-you. And in certain cases, they had to use Parsons Brinckerhoff, because Parsons Brinckerhoff, for example, holds the patent for joining the sections of tunnel. So they had to bring the Parsons Brinckerhoff engineer to tell them how to make these joints between the big sections for the tunnel. Parsons Brinckerhoff also knew how to ventilate the tunnel from Beşiktaş to Taksim. They were unable to get the air moving properly in that tunnel, so Parsons Brinckerhoff was brought in to do that. Everything that I recommended about archaeology was simply forgotten about and disregarded when they discovered the so-called Port of Theodosius and so all of the archaeological activity, really, for the Istanbul Bosporus tunnel was really devoted – or I should say 90% of it was devoted – to the excavation at the Port of Theodosius, where as you may know some 32 ships were discovered in the silt of the silted-up port. There was some archaeological work done in Üsküdar for the subway station there. There were small soundings that were made at Beyazit and on the Beyazit-Levent line, but all of this work was unfortunately supervised by a museums person with no archaeological experience. And there were ultimately – in the beginning there were no foreigners called in to help with any of the work. Ultimately, they invited Joanita Vroom to help them on the pottery. The pottery that came out of the port of Theodosius was millions and millions of shards. I mean, I visited that site twice and I just saw the room stacked from floor to fifteen-twenty feet high and going forever. And they can never really master this material. And it was never a really systematic, stratigraphic excavation. It was a silted-up port and that’s nice because silting comes in pretty flat strata, so there were no major complications there, but that was such an enormous undertaking that anything else was lost in it. That was really the beginning and end of my archaeological consultation for the Istanbul subway.

GV: Have you considered working on other buildings in Istanbul or elsewhere in Turkey? I mean after the completion of Kalenderhane.

CLS: Well, the last field season of Kalenderhane was 1980. 1979 and 1980 were both spent mostly in the Archaeological Museum, working on the conservation of the frescoes and mosaics. You must then remember that the first volume of the final report was only published in 1997 and the second volume was only published in 2006. When you talk with archaeologists about the length of time that expires between the end of an excavation and the appearance of the final report, Kalenderhane falls very much in the average – 20-30 years on average from the end of the excavation for the appearance of the final report, if the final report ever appears at all. There were two other buildings in Istanbul, which I thought were seriously underexplored and which could have benefited from a Kalenderhane type of undertaking, even though I was getting older. Mind you, I began Kalenderhane at age 35. I finished it at age 50 or 55. I’m going to be 80 in two months. So time was moving on. The two buildings were Zeyrek Djami, Pantokrator, and St. Sergius and Bacchus, Küçuk Ayasofya. In the case of Zeyrek Djami, Pantokrator, whatever scientific work was done there was in the hands of Bob Ousterhout and Zeynep Ahunbay, who had the permit from the contractor. The work on that building was actually contracted by the mayor of Fatih district, so none of the proper things that you would do, in which the archaeologist or architect actually controls the restoration work – none of that was done. Any of the work was done by a civil contractor and all that Bob Ousterhout and Zeynep and the team could do was to observe what was going on, by the contractors. In the case of the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus, this was even worse. The restoration of this building was undertaken by the man who’s now prime minister of Turkey, when he was the mayor of Istanbul. The building was surrounded by a wood fence, a wood wall, with no holes where you could see – I mean tongue-in-groove wood; you couldn’t see through anywhere – some three meters tall, completely surrounding the entire site. And you could only go in from the north side. There was a door. And I got to Istanbul shortly after this wall had gone up. I wanted to see what work was going on there, so I knocked on the door and the door opens a crack. And my Turkish isn’t beautiful, but it’s certainly good enough to say, “I’d like to come in and see this, and so forth.” “Sorry, it’s forbidden. Nobody is permitted in.” So then I went and talked to my friend Dogan Kuban. I said, “Dogan, what’s the story with St. Sergius and Bacchus?” He said, “Nobody can get in. No Turks, no archaeologists, no specialists, no architects, no consultants, and so forth. It’s an entirely sealed-off project and nobody has any idea what’s going on there.” And this continued for three and a half, four years. There was apparently a young Turkish woman, who was appointed to work on the sculpture decoration and on the cornice and what-have-you. Now, I didn’t know anything about this. I knew that the building was going to be restored and when my close friend Adolf Hoffmann was appointed, before he arrived, as the director of the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, he said to me, “I would like to revive the German Archaeological Institute’s interest in Byzantine things. Is there anything that you recommend? And I would be pleased to work with you on it.” And I said, “Adolf, yes, there is St. Sergius and Bacchus.” He said, “Can you write a proposal?” So I wrote a very detailed proposal of a project of investigation at St. Sergius and Bacchus, in which I told him all of the scientific problems that even modest excavation would be able to solve: where was the Church of St. Peter and Paul? Where was the Palace of the Hormisdas located? What was the relationship of the two churches to the Palace of the Hormisdas? And so forth and so on, and so forth and so on. And Adolf took this to Ankara. And, you know, this is a man with influence. And he said he tried to – he said it was very interesting to him. By then he had appointed Klaus Rheidt as the Byzantinist, an excellent buildings researcher, and Klaus was fascinated by it and would love to work with me on it. He said, “I could not get anywhere on it.” He said, “Ultimately, I was responsible for all German excavations in Turkey, so I had to pay attention to Pergamum and I had to pay attention to Göksu and I had to pay attention to all of these other things. I couldn’t spend my full time trying to get something done at St. Sergius and Bacchus.” And then ultimately it became clear why he was being stonewalled, because what’s-his-name had declared it his own personal project. So the building was completely sealed off until the restoration was completely done and then it was opened to everybody. We don’t know what they found, we don’t know where they dug, we don’t know what information may have been lost. So those are the two buildings that I would have felt would have been worth an intensive investigation. In terms of doing anything else in Istanbul, by then I was also deeply engaged in my tree ring dating project, which succeeded my Kalenderhane work and went on in a certain sense parallel to my preparing the Kalenderhane publication. But my fieldwork then branched out considerably. I didn’t forsake Istanbul. The first samples that we took in our project, working together with Peter Kuniholm of Cornell University in 1974, were from Hagia Sophia. We got the permission for that. I had in mind something that my teacher at the Institute of Fine Arts, Walter Friedlander, used to say. Walter Friedlander was a specialist in Renaissance and Baroque painting, a wonderful man, and very quotable in all sorts of ways. Friedlander would always say, “When you’re writing a dissertation, start big.” He said, “If you write a dissertation on Nanni di Banco, or Perino del Vago, or –” And he mentioned four or five minor 16th or 17th century painters on whom there were Institute of Fine Arts dissertations. He said, “You’ll never rise above that level of second-rate painters and so forth. If you’re going to write a dissertation, write about Michelangelo or Leonardo.” So, applied to Peter and my tree ring project in Turkey: if you’re going to work on Byzantine buildings, start in Hagia Sophia. I mean start with the biggest and so forth. Parenthetically, we did a big project at Hagia Sophia, not in that first year, but we were advised by Bob Van Nice in detail where we could find all of the wood members in Hagia Sophia. I had spent hours with Bob making “x” marks on all of the drawings of Hagia Sophia, where we should look. But Hagia Sophia, in a certain sense, proved – it may even have defined the principle that there was an inverse relationship between the quality of and usefulness of wood and the importance of the building: the more important the building, the lousier the wood. So over the many years when I worked together with Peter Kuniholm and then when I worked by myself, it was always the minor buildings that produced the best – quite ironical, but in any case by the time I was finished up with Kalenderhane, as I said, I was very much involved in tree ring dating. And so the idea of doing another building – the two that I was interested in were out of the question and the whole circumstances under which the Kalenderhane project was carried out could never have been reproduced by then for another project. My friends told me again and again, “You’re lucky that you did the Kalenderhane project when you did it, because nowadays you could never undertake a project like that. No foreigner would be permitted to do that kind of work, even in close collaboration with a Turkish collaborator.

GV: How did you get interested in tree ring dating and how did you start to collaborate with Peter Kuniholm?

CLS: Well, I knew what tree ring dating was. Anybody who does archaeology knows or teaches about scientific methods of dating, knows about carbon-14 dating, thermoluminescent dating, and tree ring dating. I met Peter, who is six and a half years younger than me, when he was a graduate student, a very superannuated graduate student in classical archaeology, in the museum. He and Ute took – only one of three students in the course in advanced Turkish, taught by somebody named Osman Nedim Tuna, who was the teacher of Turkish at Penn when we came in the late 1960s. And Ute wanted to improve her Turkish, so she signed up for this course and in this course was Peter Kuniholm. So Peter was just finishing up his coursework in the no-longer-extant program in classical archaeology – that’s a whole separate story, which would take much too long to tell. That program was ultimately closed and replaced by a program in Mediterranean archaeology. So, I got to know Peter and Peter was a student of Rodney Young, who was the excavator of Gordion. And Gordion has these enormous tumuli with burial chambers, which are like log cabins. They’re enormous log beams and Rodney had gotten a man named Bryant Bannister, many, many years earlier, to come and take a slice from one of these beams. It was Rodney’s idea that dendrochronology might be used for dating archaeological material in Turkey. At that time, dendrochronology had never been used in the Balkans or Turkey, in that whole part of the world. It had been used very successfully in northern Europe, England, Ireland, not too successfully – a little bit – in northern Italy, but that’s the furthest south that it came. So Rodney assigned Peter to work on the dendrochronology of Anatolia as a doctoral dissertation with – the title of it was, “The Dendrochronology of Gordion and the Anatolian Plateau.” And so when Peter told me about it, I said, “Well, that sounds really, very interesting, but of course, Peter, as you perfectly well know, in order to create your continuous chronology, so that you can give the precise years for your Gordion wood or anything else you find, you’ve got to go through my Byzantine period. And because the dating of Byzantine churches is a very complicated and very badly mixed up business, based largely on questions of typology and what-have-you, which are of questionable relevance, I think we could do some really, very important work on the tree ring dating of Byzantine churches.” Peter said, “Sounds interesting to me.” So the two of us, without any funding, started working together in 1974. He had just finished his class work at Penn, he’d gotten a one-year visiting professorship at Cornell as an instructor. He hadn’t finished his dissertation yet. And in the summer of ’74, in autumn [?], we did some sampling in Istanbul. We took material from Kalenderhane and from a couple of buildings and got permission to do that. I don’t think we did anything outside Turkey at that point. Peter did a few things in Anatolia, he picked up some charcoal or wood samples from archaeological excavation sites. And then his assistantship or assistant visiting-ship at Cornell kept being extended. And ultimately, in ’76, with my help and collaboration, and as co-director of the Aegean Dendrochronology Project, we applied for and received, from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Geographic Society, quite substantial funding. It was enough to pay much of Peter’s salary and for him to really open a proper laboratory at Cornell. And my task was to ferret out those Byzantine buildings, in which I could determine there was wood, wood that appeared to be from its primary phase or a particular phase of construction, and to design, so to speak, our itinerary for taking samples and then ultimately, depending upon what dates were achieved, to write up the results of our tree ring dating. And we worked from then until 1988. If my collaboration with Dogan Kuban was difficult, my collaboration with Peter Kuniholm was impossible. As my chairman Renata Holod once said to me, he said, “Lee, you’re doing wonderful things, but you have the bad luck of having two lousy collaborators.” She knew Kuban quite well, having worked with him at Qasr al-Hayr with Oleg Grabar. She didn’t know Peter, but I told her some hair-raising stories of Peter’s collaboration. Peter was really a nasty, nasty man. But, this was again a case in which the project was so good that it was worth taking it on the lam to keep things going, so we worked together until 1988 and then we split. And from 1988 on, Peter didn’t want to work, quote, “on those lousy Byzantine buildings.” He wanted to work on Anatolia, on Bronze Age excavations and so on. So I continued to work on those lousy Byzantine buildings in Greece and in Yugoslavia and ultimately, in 1991, because I had done a great deal of work in Thessaloniki, I knew the people in the directorship of antiquities there quite well. I was invited to come and look at the acropolis of Thessaloniki, where there’s a big fortress called the Heptapyrgion , “seven towers.” And that fortress had been a military prison until 1989 and had been a military prison when Thessaloniki was still part of the Ottoman Empire, so the building had never been archaeologically or architecturally investigated – because none of the prisoners were specialists in archaeology or what-have-you. And so it was then turned over to the Ministry of Culture, to turn it into a cultural monument. And I was invited to come and look at it to see if there was wood that might help for the dating of the building. And it was filled with wood. So from 1989 to about 1996, I did eight seasons of brief – each season, maximum two, two and a half weeks – of sampling at the Heptapyrgion. We recovered about over 200 samples, at that point the largest number of samples ever taken from a single object. The Heptapyrgion is the subject of debate in Thessaloniki, just like the White Tower, which is this great, wonderful tower on the waterfront: is it Byzantine? Is it Venetian, when Venice occupied Thessaloniki for a while? Is it Turkish or what-have-you? I won’t take you through the long arguments involving all of this, but the Heptapyrgion also figured in this, because everybody hoped that it was early Christian or middle Byzantine, but there is an enormous building inscription over the main entryway – the Turkish word for this is kitabe – in Ottoman things. And it read: “I, Murad, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, have conquered this city. We have captured Christians and killed their children and we have built this fortress from its ruins up to the way you see it now. Date: March 27th, 1438,” I think. Something like that. So, it’s an Ottoman fortress. But the Greeks didn’t want to believe this and if you read the guidebooks, they say, “Well, this part of it is early Christian and this part of it is Byzantine. There’s a little bit of Turkish.” And so forth. Well, I come with my drills and take core samples from here and core samples from there and sections from this. By then I was, I had long ceased collaborating with Peter Kuniholm. I was collaborating with a wonderful tree ring specialist and his lab in Cologne, Germany: Burghart Schmidt. He was really a fine dendrochronologist and the first year we were getting samples which had the final growth ring or a little bit of bark, so we knew we had the actual tree ring, the ring from the felling year of the tree and so forth. And the dates started coming in. 1436, 1436, 1436, 1436, 1436, 1436. Now people always ask: why do you assume the year of construction is the same as the felling year of the tree? And to get the answer to that, you only have to read the Roman writer Vitruvius, who says if you’re going to use rough wood for construction, leave as little time as possible from the felling of the tree to the working of it, because it is much easier to work green wood than it is to work seasoned wood. And we already – beginning in the late 14th century – we have contracts preserved which say, “The wood shall be delivered, cut and delivered to the excavation site no more than two months from felling,” and so forth. And that’s why – builders recognize the importance of using green wood. So, as we went on it became perfectly clear that what you see on the acropolis of Thessaloniki today, what you can get at, is essentially Ottoman construction from Murad’s conquest of the city. There may well be Roman, early Christian, Byzantine remains inside the walls of this which you can’t get at or see, but the present construction is an Ottoman construction.

GV: Well, I came, I believe, to the end of my questions. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

CLS: I can think of nothing off-hand, unless you would suggest in what direction it might go. What am I doing now in the year of 2012? I’m slowly putting into print the dendrochronology that I did fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years ago. It’s a very long and tedious process, but since there is no such thing as unpublished research, I ultimately would like to get both the things that I did in ex-Yugoslavia – I was really all over the place in the ’90s, after I split with Peter. It was good that Kalenderhane – I mean I had been a one-site person with the Myrelaion and especially with Kalenderhane for too many years and with dendrochronology we were everywhere: all over Yugoslavia, all over Albania, all over Greece – not the islands – and so forth. So, quite apart from the dendrochronology, I was seeing a lot of buildings that I had never been to see before and getting a very comprehensive look at the Balkan Peninsula. And now that all has to be put into print.

GV: Well, thank you very much for this wonderful interview.

CLS: My pleasure. Indeed.