The town of Iznik is located in Western Turkey on the banks of Lake Iznik. It has been the center of ceramics know-how and production for almost 800 years, since ancient Greco-Roman times. During the 15th through the 18th centuries, Iznik’s artisans produced masterpieces of tableware and murals that adorned many examples of classic architecture, including the Topkapi Palace and grand mosques of Istanbul.
Iznik was known as Antigonia during the time of Alexander the Great. Following his death, the city became known as Nicaea. The town is primarily known as the site of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea, the first and seventh Ecumenical councils in the early history of the Christian church, the Nicene Creed, and as the capital city of the Empire of Nicaea. It would seem that the region owes its present name to the phrase ‘eis ten Nikaieon’ , Greek for ‘to Nicaea’.
Identified with Turkish ceramics, this small, attractive region, which is rich in legend, has managed to survive since the 4th century BC. Archaeological findings in the mounds of Karadin, Çiçekli, Yügücek and Çakirca reveal that the history of Iznik dates back to the prehistoric period, around 2500 B.C. It served as the interim capital city of the Byzantine Empire between 1204 and 1261. An important source of its vitality is its location, which is very close to the road linking Istanbul to Anatolia.
In the 14th through the 16th centuries, Iznik became an important art centre. The world-famous Iznik tiles and ceramics were produced there. In the 16th century it was home to the golden-age imperial ceramic workshops. This art of ceramics disappeared after the 17th century due to both economic reasons and the secretive nature of the ancient artisans. More than 300 years after the ancient art of Iznik ceramics was lost, in the early 1990s the Iznik Foundation was established to revive it.