Soul of the Garden

Images of Turkey

The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) - Istanbul


A wide view of the Hagia Sophia. The minarets and massive buttresses were added by the Ottomans after 1453, in fact, the three low domed structures in the foreground are the tombs of Sultans. In the lower right, an archeological dig is excavating the original Roman / Byzantine royal palace complex. (Taken from the roof top of the Seven Hills Restaurant.)


Started in 532 during the reign of Justinian, the most famous of the early Emperors of what we now call the Byzantine Empire (they considered themselves to be Romans) the Hagia Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom) was the greatest building in the world for eleven centuries. It wasn't until St. Peter's basilica was built in Rome that another building surpassed it in scale and ambition. Hagia Sophia is a marvel of engineering and has survived countless earth quakes and calamities. Its enormous open plan overawed visitors from all over the world who could not believe the span of its dome. Countless dramatic stories from history took place within this building with Emperors, Empresses, Patriarchs, Kings and Sultans all playing their roles. After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, the Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque. It wasn't until  the 1920's, when the new Turkish government of Ataturk came to power, that it became a museum. Today it is being carefully restored  with magnificent mosaics and other artistic and architectural details being uncovered or repaired on a continuous basis.  As a young boy, I became fascinated by the Hagia Sophia after one of my art teachers showed us images of it - my first "award winning" work of art was a linoleum cutting where I attempted to portray this building. I still remember how proud I was of that blue ribbon! I have wanted to visit the Hagia Sophia for over forty years and was extremely grateful to complete my pilgrimage!


The Hagia Sophia as seen at night from the terrace of Hotel Ararat - a comfortable and very friendly pension in the heart of the City. I spent my first two nights there.


The south facing facade (opposite the main entrance.)


As seen from the Sultanahmet neighborhood..


Interior view (greatly truncated to avoid shooting the scaffolding.) Even a partial view is astonishing - imagine how a Viking warrior or Greek peasant would have felt stepping into this space! Notice the people in the lower left for scale.


Dome and mosaics.


From the floor... the wooden roundels with Qu'uranic verses were obviously added after the church was converted to a mosque.


A view of the "Empress Balcony."


Byzantine mosaic and Islamic windows.


One of the amazingly detailed mosaics.




Golden tiles glowing in the light.


The Emperor and Empress bestowing gifts.


Layers of ornamentation everywhere.




Plaster covers a great deal of the mosaics to preserve them until they can be restored. The plaster is painted to mimic the mosaics underneath.


Amazing column capitals.


Viewed from the entrance of the Topkapi Palace with a gorgeous Ottoman fountain in the foreground.


A little wider view.


Exterior detail.


More detail.


Roman and Byzantine relics adorn the grounds.

Continue to Istanbul - The Blue Mosque

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