June 13th, 2014
The Church of the Holy Wisdom, known as Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya in Turkish, is a former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque, now a museum, Hagia Sophia is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world.
Hagia Sophia was built in her present form between 532 and 537. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings.
Note- I included this picture off the internet to show a perspective of the Hagia Sophia that I could not get.
For over 900 years the Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1204 the cathedral was ruthlessly attacked, desecrated and plundered by the Crusaders, who also ousted the Patriarch of Constantinople and replaced him with a Latin bishop. This event cemented the division of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches that had begun with the Great Schism of 1054. It also means that most of Hagia Sophia's riches can be seen today not in Istanbul, but in the treasury of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.
Despite this violent setback, Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque.
Hagia Sophia served as the principal mosque of Istanbul for almost 500 years. It became a model for many of the Ottoman mosques of Istanbul such as the Blue Mosque and the Suleiman Mosque.
In 1934, under Turkish president Atatürk, Hagia Sofia was secularized and turned into the Ayasofya Museum, as a solution to the bickering going on between the Orthodox Church and the Muslims for use of the building.
This is the view of the Hagia Sophia that I could photograph, as we walked up to it.
Its rather plain, flat view belies the amazing interior. Because the Hagia Sophia is now a secular museum, we did not have to wear a head scarf or remove our shoes to enter.
We entered the main area of the Hagia Sophia through the Emperor Door. The Emperor Door is the largest door of Hagia Sophia, dated to 6th century, which provides passage to the main structure from the inner narthex section. The Emperor door is 7 meters in length and made of oak and has a bronze frame. The door would have been used only by the Emperor and his retinue. Tradition says the door was made of the wood of Noah's ark.
As we stepped into this amazing church, we were overwhelmed by its shear size!
I have heard the feeling described as “making one feel like a grain of sand”……..And that was just how we felt.
There was something about this church that really gave one perspective and inspired awe. There was also a great sense of ‘holiness’.
Hanging throughout the church were these round plaques. “These great rounded calligraphic panes on the walls had been written by a famous calligrapher during the repairs between 1847 and 1849. There are 8 of these panes containing the names of Allah, Muhammad, and the four caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali as well as the grandsons of Muhammad, namely Hasan and Husayn. The calligraphic panes are the largest ones in the Islamic world. Other plaques that were hung around the church held verses from the Quran.”
This juxtaposition of Christian art and images really moved us to see the universality of worship.
This mosaic of the Virgin and Child was the first of the post-iconoclastic mosaics. It was inaugurated on 29 March 867 by Patriarch Photios and the emperors Michael III and Basil I. This mosaic is situated in a high location on the half dome of the apse. Mary is sitting on a throne without a back, holding the Child Jesus on her lap. Her feet rest on a pedestal. Both the pedestal and the throne are adorned with precious stones
This wooden pedestal was added when the Hagia Sophia was used as a mosque. It is where a cantor would stand.
Beautiful stained glass…….
And other images from Hagia Sophia……..
This mosaic, placed on the Emperor Door presents Jesus holding an open bible with his left hand. Written on the bible are the Greek words ‘May Peace Be with You. I Am the Divine Light’. The right medallion holds the figure of Gabriel while the left medallion holds one of Virgin Mary. Below the feet of Christ, in a prayer position is Emperor Leon VI. ( 816- 912) of Eastern Rome. The mosaic dates back to the 10th century
John the Baptist on the right and Virgin Mary on the left and in the middle, Jesus Christ. In the mosaic, Virgin Mary and John the Baptist's prayers to Jesus Christ for the mercy of people during the doomsday are portrayed. The date that is currently accepted for this mosaic is the 13th Century.
The detail of these mosaics are such that the eyes seem to follow you……
This mosaic board symbolizes the donations made by the emperor's family for the restorations of Hagia Sophia.
In this mosaic, Emperor IX. Konstantinos Monomakhos (1042-1055) and Empress Zoe are portrayed and symbolize the donations made by this emperor's family for the restorations of Hagia Sophia. It dates back to 11th century.
I really found this a bit strange. I had never before seen religious art depicted with the political figures who had donated money to the church!
This script was determined to belong to the 9th century contains a sentence meaning "Halvdan was here". Really….this was carved in the marble railing like ancient graffiti……
We concluded our tour of Hagia Sophia, but not our sightseeing of Istanbul……