And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Istanbul - Aya Sofya

If you go to Istanbul and have to only see one site, it is without doubt Aya Sofya (also known as Hagia Sophia in Greek). This was my main ancient site that I wanted to see in the whole of Turkey.

This is a wonderful view of Aya Sofya along the tree-lined road from the Hippodrome. The tourist queue to get into Aya Sofya can sometimes stretch to almost this point, it's very popular!

The size of the building and amount of bricks used to build Aya Sofya is staggering. An interesting note, there has been a church here since the year 360 AD.

Once in, you enter the first hallway, which is massive in itself....

You then enter the main dome area dwarfs everything.

The dome is an amazing 55.6 metres (182 ft) above the floor.

Constantinople fell to the muslims, Sultan Mehmed, in 1453. Aya Sofya was then converted from a church to a mosque. Today it's a fantastic museum.

The Sultan could attend prayers in his lace box, without being seen by the public.

The apse mosaic of the virgin mother and child.

Lots of wonderful stained glass windows.

The main dome has fantastic artwork, a lot of it restored.

The central muslim artwork.

Strange looking angels at the corner points.

The tomb of Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice, who in 1204 diverted the crusaders to attack Constantinople, a fellow Christian city, purely for greed. A disgraceful event, but tradition says that after the conquest of the city by muslims in 1453, his tomb was opened end his bones were thrown to the dogs!

The Omphalion, inlaid marble where Byzantine emperors sat on their throne, while being crowned.

Ancient Christian symbols on the ceiling, showing through the over laid muslim designs.

Marble that looks like some Aboriginal design. Many relics and artworks were stolen by the crusaders in 1204 and others removed after the 1453 conquest.

Hallways surround the main dome area.

Some wonderful light streaming onto an interesting (modern looking) design.

The ramp entrance lead to the upper level, it becomes quite narrow and claustrophobic, as it twists it's way up.

The view from the upper level is wonderful.

The upper level hallway.

The large green medallions with the names of God, Mohammed and the early calipahs, were erected in the 19th century.

The chandeliers look great.

People are dwarfed by the size of the church.

Tourists admiring the famous Deesis Mosaic (The Last Judgement).

Jesus in the centre, Mary on the left and John the baptist on the right.


The remains of a truly fantastic mosaic from the 14th century.

Beautiful colours, similar to the ones in our house.

The view through the upper floor widows looks pretty good too.

Originally the church would have had oil lamps, but the chandeliers were Ottoman additions.

Amongst the fine carvings and artwork, a lone pigeon sits!

The Emperor Comnenus and Empress Eirene mosaic.

The Empress Zoe mosaic. The funny story here is that, she outlived most of her husbands and had a new face put on the mosaic every time one died and she married a new one, well except for the last one who outlived her.

Multiple beautifully coloured arches.

Solid doors, but these were no match for the muslim conquest in 1453.

'In 1453 Sultan Mehmed laid siege to Constantinople, driven in part by a desire to convert the city to Islam. The Sultan promised his troops three days of unbridled pillage if the city fell, after which he would claim its contents himself. The Hagia Sophia was not exempted from the pillage, becoming its focal point as the invaders believed it to contain the greatest treasures of the city. Shortly after the city’s defenses collapsed, pillagers made their way to the Hagia Sophia and battered down its doors. Throughout the siege the Holy Liturgy and Prayer of the Hours were performed at the Hagia Sophia, and the church formed a refuge for many of those who were unable to contribute to the city’s defense. Trapped in the church, congregants and refugees became booty to be divided amongst the invaders. The building was desecrated and looted, and occupants enslaved or slaughtered; a few of the elderly and infirm were killed, and the remainder chained. Priests continued to perform Christian rites until stopped by the invaders. When the Sultan and his cohort entered the church he insisted it should be at once transformed into a mosque.'

The fountain for ritual washing before entering the mosque.

An interesting piece of artwork outside, that looks more South American.

It's been a long day and I'm tired and need a strong Turkish coffee to keep me going.

We had a rooftop dinner to end the day. I love this photo, as in the glass reflection you can see the outline of Aya Sofya, where we had a day I shall always remember.


Mr. Smiley said...


Wonderful tour and photos. Thanks. It's apparent you had a wonderful trip.

Richard King said...

Thanks Mr. Smiley.
It was a great holiday, especially Istanbul. I wouldn't mind going back there one day, maybe for more birding and history.