Monday, July 14, 2008

Turkey Travelogue: Hagia Sophia

Belatedly getting back to my trip... our first big stop in Istanbul was Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom. This 6th-century Byzantine architectural marvel sits in Sultanahmet Square (those fountains are in the Square), facing the Blue Mosque.

The interior of the church (which was turned into a mosque by the Ottomans in the 15th century) is vast and breathtaking.

Some restoration work was being done on the nave's dome, which goes up 184 feet. Just looking at the scaffolding (which has no elevator that I could see) gives me vertigo.

Added to the nave during a mid-19th century restoration, eight wooden calligraphic roundels bear the names of Allah, Muhammad, the first four Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali), and the two grandsons of Mohammad (martyrs Hasan and Husayn).

There are many beautiful mosaics on the walls, and much of the early Christian iconography survived Islam's ban on representational imagery, including this depiction of the Virgin and Child.

... and Virgin with Constantine and Justinian, which probably dates back to the 10th century and features two of Constantanople's great emperors (Justinian gives her the church while Constantine gives her the city).

1 comment:

Keera said...

It's nice to see buildings as they are, and tourists are often very disappointed when a point of interest is hidden under scaffolding or even closed due to repairs. But I think you lucked out, because the scaffolding emphasizes the height of the building, and makes it a unique experience (and photo).