Read CHAPTER XLVI of Wagner‚ the Wehr-Wolf , free online book, by George W. M. Reynolds, on


Constantinople, like haughty Rome, is built on seven hills the houses being so disposed that they do not intercept the view commanded by each on the amphitheatrical acclivities. But the streets are narrow, crooked, and uneven; and the grand effects of the numerous stately mosques and noble edifices are subdued, and in many cases altogether lost, either by the very insignificant width of the thoroughfares in which they stand, or by the contiguity of mean and miserable wooden tenements.

The mosque of St. Sophia, once a Christian church, with its magnificent portico, supported by marble columns, its nine vast folding doors, adorned with bas-reliefs, and its stupendous dome, a hundred and twenty feet in diameter; the mosque of the Sultan Solyman, forming an exact square with four noble towers at the angles, and with its huge cupola, in the midst; the mosque of the Sultan Ahmed, with its numerous domes, its tall minarets, and its colonnades supported by marble pillars; and the mosque of the Sultana Valida, or queen mother of Mohammed the Fourth, exceeding all other Mussulman churches in the delicacy of its architecture and the beauty of its columns of marble and jasper, supplied by the ruins of Troy these are the most remarkable temples in the capital of the Ottoman empire.

The Grand Bezestein, or exchange, is likewise a magnificent structure consisting of a spacious hall of circular form, built of free-stone, and surrounded by shops displaying the richest commodities of Oriental commerce. In the Ladies’ Bazaar there is a marble column of extraordinary height, and on the sides of which, from the foot to the crown, are represented in admirable bas-reliefs the most remarkable events which characterized the reign of the Emperor Arcadius, ere the capital of Roman dominions of the East fell into the hands of the descendants of Osman.

But of all the striking edifices at Constantinople, that of the Sultan’s Palace, or seraglio, is the most spacious and the most magnificent. Christian writers and readers are too apt to confound the seraglio with the harem, and to suppose that the former means the apartments belonging to the sultan’s ladies; whereas the word seraglio, or rather sernil, represents the entire palace of which the harem, or females’ dwelling, is but a comparatively small portion.

The seraglio is a vast inclosure, occupying nearly the entire site of the ancient city of Byzantium, and embracing a circumference of five miles. It contains nine enormous courts of quadrangular form, and an immense number of buildings constituting a complete town of itself. But within this inclosure dwell upward of ten thousand persons the entire court of the sultan. There reside the great officers of state, the body guards, the numerous corps of bostandjis, or gardeners, and baltojis, or fire-wood purveyors the corps of white and black eunuchs, the pages, the mutes, the dwarfs the ladies of the harem, and all their numerous attendants.

There are nine gates to the palace of the sultan. The principal one opens on the square of St. Sophia, and is very magnificent in its architecture. It is this gate which is called the Sublime Porte a name figuratively given to the court of the sultan, in all histories, records, and diplomatic transactions. It was within the inclosure of the seraglio that Alessandro Francatelli, whom we shall henceforth call by his apostate name of Ibrahim was lodged in the dwelling of the reis-effendi or minister of foreign affairs. But in the course of a few days the renegade was introduced into the presence of Piri Pasha, the grand vizier that high functionary who exercised a power almost as extensive and as despotic as that wielded by the sultan himself.

Ibrahim, the apostate, was received by his highness Piri Pasha at a private audience and the young man exerted all his powers, and called to his aid all the accomplishments which he possessed, to render himself agreeable to that great minister. He discoursed in an intelligent manner upon the policy of Italy and Austria, and gave the grand vizier considerable information relative to the customs, resources, and condition of these countries. Then, when the vizier touched upon lighter matters, Ibrahim showed how well he was already acquainted with the works of the most eminent Turkish poets and historians; and the art of music being mentioned, he gave the minister a specimen of his proficiency on the violin. Piri Pasha was charmed with the young renegade, whom he immediately took into his service as one of his private secretaries.

Not many weeks elapsed before the fame of Ibrahim’s accomplishments and rare talents reached the ears of the sultan, Solyman the Magnificent; and the young renegade was honored with an audience by the ruler of the East. On this occasion he exerted himself to please even more triumphantly than when he was introduced to the grand vizier; and the sultan commanded that henceforth Ibrahim should remain attached to his person in the capacity of keeper of the imperial archives.

We should observe that the dispatches which the Florentine Envoy wrote to the government of the republic, contained but a brief and vague allusion to the apostasy of Alessandro Francatelli; merely mentioning that the youth had become a Mussulman, and entered the service of the grand vizier, but not stating either the name which he had adopted or the brilliant prospects which had so suddenly and marvelously opened before him. The Florentine Embassador treated the matter thus lightly, because he was afraid of incurring the blame of his government for not having kept a more stringent watch over his subordinate, were he to attach any importance to the fact of Alessandro’s apostasy. But he hoped that by merely glancing at the event as one scarcely worth special notice, the Council of Florence would be led to treat it with equal levity. Nor was the embassador deceived in his calculation; and thus the accounts which reached Florence relative to Alessandro’s renegadism and which were not indeed communicated to the council until some months after the occurrence of the apostasy itself were vague and indefinite to a degree.

And had Ibrahim no remorse? Did he never think of his lovely sister Flora, and of his affectionate aunt who, in his boyhood, had made such great and generous sacrifices to rear them honorably? Oh! yes; but a more powerful idea dominated the remembrance of kindred, and the attachment to home and that idea was ambition! Moreover, the hope of speedily achieving that greatness which was to render him eligible and worthy to possess the charming being whose powerful influence seemed to surround him with a constant halo of protection, and to soothe down all the asperities which are usually found in the career of those who rise suddenly and rise highly this ardent, longing hope not only encouraged him to put forth all his energies to make himself master of a glorious position, but also subdued to no small extent the feelings of compunction which would otherwise have been too bitter, too agonizing to endure.

His mind was, moreover, constantly occupied. When not in attendance upon the sultan, he devoted all his time to render himself intimately acquainted with the laws, polity, diplomatic history, resources, condition, and finances of the Ottoman Empire; he also studied the Turkish literature, and practiced composition, both in prose and verse, in the language of that country which was now his own! But think not, reader, that in his heart he was a Mussulman, or that he had extinguished the light of Christianity within his soul. No oh! no; the more he read on the subject of the Mohammedan system of theology, the more he became convinced not only of its utter falsity, but also of its incompatibility with the progress of civilization. Nevertheless, he dared not pray to the True God whom he had renounced with his lips; but there was a secret adoration, an interior worship of the Saviour, which he could not and sought not to subdue.

Solyman the Magnificent, was an enlightened prince, and a generous patron of the arts and sciences. He did not persecute the Christians, because he knew, in his own heart, that they were further advanced in all human ideas and institutions than the Ottomans. He was, therefore, delighted whenever a talented Christian embraced the Moslem faith and entered his service; and his keen perception speedily led him to discern and appreciate all the merits and acquirements of his favorite Ibrahim.

Such was the state of things at Constantinople, when those rapidly successive incidents, which we have already related, took place in Florence. At this time immense preparations were being made by the sultan for an expedition against the Island of Rhodes, then in the possession of the Knights of St. John, commanded by their grand master, Villiers of Isle Adam.

This chieftain, aware of the danger which menaced him, dispatched envoys to the courts of Rome, Genoa, Venice, and Florence, imploring those powers to send him assistance against the expected invasion of the Turks. Each of these states hastened to comply with this request; and numerous bodies of auxiliaries sailed from various ports in Italy to fight beneath the glorious banner of Villiers of Isle Adam, one of the stanchest veteran champions of Christendom.

Thus, at the very time when Nisida and Wagner were united in the bonds of love on the island of which they were the possessors while, too, Isaachar the Jew languished in the prisons of the Inquisition of Florence, at which city the chivalrous-hearted Manuel d’Orsini tarried to hasten on the trial and give his testimony in favor of the Israelite and moreover while Flora, and the Countess Giulia dwelt in the strictest retirement with the young maiden’s aunt at this period, we say, a fleet of three hundred sail quitted Constantinople under the command of the kapitan-pasha, or lord high admiral, and proceeded toward the Island of Rhodes. At the same time, Solyman the Magnificent crossed into Asia Minor, and placing himself at the head of an army of a hundred thousand men, commenced his march toward the coast facing the island, and where he intended to embark on his warlike expedition. His favorite Ibrahim accompanied him, as did also the Grand Vizier Piri Pasha, and the principal dignitaries of the empire.

It was in the spring of 1521 that the Ottoman fleet received the army on board at the Cape in the Gulf of Macri, which is only separated by a very narrow strait from the Island of Rhodes; and in the evening of the same day on which the troops had thus embarked, the mighty armament appeared off the capital city of the Knights of St. John.