Posts Tagged With: Istanbul

Hagia Sofia 3 of 3

ImageHagia Sophia has the strangest angels. Each of the four corners of the dome has a seraphim. Three of them have gold masks, one has a face. I couldn’t verify this information, but piecing together from several guidebooks, I suspect that the face was painted in by the Swiss Frotelli brothers, who renovated the seraphim in the 19th century. Interestingly, it was still being used as a mosque, so I wonder how that got by.

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Hagia Sophia 2 of 3

Designed by geometricians, Hagia Sofia’s dome is particularly spectacular. It is supposed to look as if it is being held aloft by a string from the heavens and just lightly resting on the church itself. One of the primary ways this is achieved is that at base of the dome is a series of windows all the way around. Rick Steeves points out that the dome is so tall and wide that Notre Dame in Paris could fit under it and the Statue of Liberty could do jumping jacks there (although not both at the same time).


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Hagia Sophia 1 of 3

Some places revisited disappoint. Hagia Sophia, also spelled Aya Sofya, did the opposite. When I visited 13 years ago, I had been expecting the interior decoration to look a lot like Monreale Cathedral near Palermo – mosaics covering everything with glittery gold backgrounds. Hagia Sophia, when it was a church (finished 537), might have been like that. But in 1453, when the Ottomans conquered the city and the church was converted to a mosque, most of the mosaics were painted over. Uncovered since 1938 when Attaturk made it into a museum, some of the mosaics survived, perhaps even protected, by the paint, while others were damaged or destroyed.

The mosaics that remain are lovely. (I particularly am fond of Empress Zoe of the three husbands.) But the real beauty is in the architecture itself, something I did not see well through my disappointment in 1998. And this time, there was no scaffolding getting in the way. Coming: the dome.Image


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