Huge city walls facing the land and sea met the Vikings when they sailed in to Istanbul mooring at the harbour in the Golden Horn. The city was the largest the Vikings knew of and it is not so strange that the Vikings referred to the city as Miklagard (The Great City).
The city wall was 7 km long, built in three parallel walls. The inside wall was 12 meters high. There were 100 eighteen meter high towers along the wall. On the outside there were moats. There were also several kilometers of walls along the sea side plus a heavy iron chain that blocked the harbor of Constantinople – The Golden Horn. The walls protected the city against intruders for 800 years before Constantinople on April 13th 1204 was conquered for the first time by crusaders during the 4th crusade.
The Vikings sailed in to Constantinople, mooring at the harbor in the Golden Horn. In this city of several hundred thousand, the Hippodrome with room for 100,000 spectators dominated. It was the eastern Roman Empire’s ceremony and festival center. From here the emperor proclaimed his decisions and issued decrees. Above the entrance were four horses in bronze telling what the hippodrome was actually built for. The bronze statues were retrieved from Emperor Nero’s arch of triumph in Rome. The crusaders plundered Constantinople taking with them the statues to Venice where they today the church of St. Marcus’s west entrance.
Nearby was the largest church in the world, Hagia Sofia – The Church of Holy wisdom. It was finished in 537 and was therefore quite new when the Vikings arrived. We know that the Vikings visited the church because on one of the columns you can still read “Halvdan was here” etched in the marble in Runic symbols. Halvdan was surely impressed when he gazed at the huge cupola which soared to 56 meters above, even though he didn’t understand much of the ceremonies that were taking place on the church floor. In the senatorial building there was room for 2000 senators, together with the splendor of the royal palace it is not so strange that the Vikings referred to the city as Miklagard (The Great City).