Preview: Bettany Hughes’ Treasures of the World: Istanbul

Bettany’s once-in-a-lifetime journey, retracing the steps of ancient people, leads her to old Constantinople. Photo: Channel 4

In the last instalment of Bettany’s trip, she visits the fascinating base of Ottoman and Byzantine power: Istanbul. Bettany is allowed in the rescue digs at Besiktas Metro Station where a multi-layered site was uncovered.

A coin of Emperor Justinian (husband of Bettany’s all-time history heroine, Theodora) emerges from the earth. With special access behind the scenes of her favourite building on Earth the Hagia Sophia, Bettany explores the upper gallery of this magnificent church, which is now a mosque.

She sees the restoration of Justinian’s incredible Basilica Cistern – the marble columned water reservoir under the city’s streets. She walks on the drained sixth-century floor – a very rare opportunity.

The discoveries culminate in a special exploration of the Sultan’s palaces, and the homes of political exiles like Trotsky. Here, Europe’s largest wooden building, the hauntingly beautiful Prinkipo Orphanage, was once home to more than 1000 children.

Bettany Hughes’ Treasures of the World – Saturday at 7pm on Channel 4