A recent visit to Istanbul had me wandering the tourist trail. My host, Jerri, pointed me in the direction of Aya Sophia or Hagia Sophia. A church, which was destroyed and was built again as a church, became a mosque and is now a museum. And what a delight it was to wander gazing at rediscovered mosaics and frescos. Staring in awe at the arches and lights, the windows with daylight pouring in and the beauty of such an ancient building which has celebrated different faiths over the centuries.
This is the exterior of the building. The current structure was constructed by Isidoros (Milet) and Anthemios (Tralles), who were renowned architects of their time, by Emperor Justinianos’s (527-565) orders. Information from historian Prokopios states that the construction that began on February 23, 532, was completed in a short period of five years and the church was opened to worship with a ceremony on December 27, 537. Resources show that on the opening day of the Hagia Sophia, Emperor Justinianos entered the temple and said, “My Lord, thank you for giving me chance to create such a worshipping place,” and followed with the words “Süleyman, I beat you,” referring to Süleyman’s temple in Jerusalem.
Windows and lights are the first to catch my attention.
And then with this view from the upper gallery the sheer size of the building, this with half of it shrouded in scaffolding. The discovered mosaic of the Archangel Gabriel
The place to speak from, and the different sorts of marble which is everywhere. The white marbles used in the structure came from the Marmara Island, the green porphyry from Eğriboz Island, the pink marbles from Afyon and the yellow from North Africa. The decorative interior wall coatings were established by dividing single marble blocks into two and combining them in order to create symmetrical shapes.
More rediscovered mosaic. On the western wall of Northern gallery, there is the mosaic board where the Deisis stage, considered as the start of renaissance in East Rome painting, is located. In the portrayol, Ioannes Prodromos ( John the Baptist) on the right and Virgin Mary on the left and in the middle Pantocrator Jesus Christ are located. In the mosaic, Virgin Mary and John the Baptist's prayers to Jesus Christ for the mercy of people during the doomsday are portrayed. If you would like to know more go to this link http://ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/mosa-deisis-composition The great rounded calligraphic panes on the walls of the main place had been written by Kadıasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi who was one of the famous calligraphers during the repairs between 1847 and 1849 of Sultan Abdülmecid period (1839-1861). Rounded calligraphic panes with 7.5 meters of diameter are written by gilt on green background made of hemp. 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 wooden hangers of the panes are made of lime since it is light and durable. The calligraphic panes are the largest ones in the Islamic world. http://ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/call-great-calligraphic-panes
Discovered angels - The pendentives feature four unidentical angel figures. It is believed that these one headed six winged angels (seraphim) protect the Lord’s Throne in Heaven. The angels featured in the East are composed of mosaics whereas the two in the West have been damaged during the Eastern Roman period and have been renewed as fresco.http://ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/mosa-dome-angel-figures From above, the lights, window light and tourists, who were crowding in by this point in my visit. The detail on the walls, the stone carving, a visual feast from so many decades.
Such an extraordinary place to visit. I spent a long time, probably about two hours entranced by architecture, the way light played in the grand building and a sense of spirit and sheer awe at the idea of how many different people must have worshipped their particular ideas of god across the ages at this magnificent home of worship.
You can read more about the museum and its history here, which is where I have taken the detailed information in this blog post. http://ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en
Thanks for reading. More about Istanbul in the next post.