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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Alissandratou

scribblings from THE Empire: Loukas according to Evdokia

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

The Fall of Constantinople, artist Theophilos Hatzimihail, born Lesvos, 1870

My younger sister was already far away, somewhere by now on the Adriatic Sea and about to begin a new life with the growing Constantinopolitan community in Venice. She did not want to leave. She was in love, desperately in love with a young and very poor artist, Loukas. Father knew his family, an old patrician line that had fallen onto hard times during the reign of Alexios I, whom they had opposed. And though over 300 years had passed, and the family had fallen into what Mother called “dignified ruin,” from which descendants were never able to recover, their name lived on within the confines of the collective consciousness of Constantinopolitans and the writings of our historians. While the ancient patriarchal figure had been forcibly tonsured and lived out his final days in a monastery and his wife the venerable matriarch retired to a convent in Asia Minor, two of the sons continued the futile struggle to redeem family honor and possibly fortune. An impossible feat. Driven from the City, E Polis, they were forced to abandon the family palace near the Hippodrome. Slowly they were forced to leave the City and live in dignified poverty just outside the first walls of the City. Loukas seemed to be the last of the family line. An aspiring artist, he wended his way as a youth to Florence, where he studied. But his heart remained in Constaninople, where at the age of 12 he had given his adolescent heart to a beautiful girl of 10, my sister, Niki.

Constantinopolitans never forget the names of their patricians, no matter what the offense. Family name remained important. And while only mentioned within the confines of the thick palatial walls and often in whispers, the disgrace and the greatness of their deeds, their valor in battle, their loyalty to the Empire, though often-times ill-placed, were never forgotten. Father knew Loukas’ family and the aspirations of the boy. He brought him to our home, educated him along with us. He was one of the family. Father saw to his education as an artist as well, allowing him to study under artists of the day. When the boy’s talents were confirmed and his passion recognized, he was sent to Florence to apprentice with well-known artists of the day. But his heart remained with the beautiful girl in the City, and to the City he returned. And his heart remained with the magnificence of the City. Though once surrounded by the wonders of Florence and the freedom to meander through that bastion of art, he longed for the Levant, for the Bosphorus, the lapping of the Marmara Sea and the churches, palaces remnants of a glorious past, the glories of an Empire that was about to be no more. Those last days he spent wandering his City, under arches, past monasteries, into churches, sketching as he went and with the vain hope that at least his drawings would live on to tell the story of the City as it was in those last days and hours.

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