Hagia Sophia

exteriorHagia Sophia was one of the architectural wonders of the world for a thousand years or more for its enormous central dome. Completed in 537, it was the prime Eastern Orthodox cathedral for over 900 years, then was converted to a mosque by the Ottomans when they conquered Constantinople in 1453 and used as such for nearly 500 years before becoming a museum in 1935 (official site).

Extensive damage from earthquakes (in 552, 557, 558, 869, 989, 1344, 1509 and 1894) a fire (in 869) and sackings by Crusaders (1204) and Ottomans (1453) have all left their mark, and of course restoration of normal wear and tear is an endless task. What we see now is a palimpsest – the original structure overlaid by all that has happened to it during  1450 years – and it evokes a similarly complex response. To be brief, though, I will just say I admired Hagia Sophia but loved the Blue Mosque.

interior from above

interior from above

The first two shots here are taken from a balcony overlooking the main space; major restoration work is under way behind the scaffolding on the right of the first.

The next two shots look up from ground level to one of the subsidiary domes – decorated in much the same way as the domes of the Blue Mosque nearby – and the intricately decorated capitals of two pillars.

Then there is a view of one of the building’s oddest features, a cobbled internal ramp, and a foyer which shows just how massive the ground floor construction had to be to support the weight of the dome.

interior of dome

capitals of columns

cobbled ramp


My last photos show two of the surviving mosaics. They have had a precarious existence, what with natural disasters, looting and pillaging, and the Islamic rule against depictions of people which meant that they were covered up for centuries.




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