I looked over the Bosphorus at the cityscape of Istanbul and I admit that it took some years after that before I understood more fully what it was that I had seen — one of the pivotal points of global history.  The Hagia Sophia mosque/museum was at the heart of it.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

This immense building was constructed from 532 to 537 c.e. under the rule of Justinian I. Designed by Greek architects, the Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in Europe for 1000 years.  Its dome, damaged by earthquakes through the years, but repaired, has been describing as changing the history of architecture.  In the year 1453, after historical upheavals, Hagia Sophia which had been a Greek Orthodox cathedral, now became a Muslim mosque.  In 1935 it was opened as a museum, though when I visited the place forty years later I saw people in prayerful activities with a few of the 3.3 million tourists per annum filing past.

Hagia Sophia interior

I stood in the vast encompassed space looking at the huge Koranic texts suspended from the high roof.  I believe that since 1935 Byzantine mosaics have been uncovered from certain walls.  These predate the mosque era from as early as 800 c.e.  and probably served as models for the mosaics at Ravenna.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Later I visited the Blue Mosque, another memorable experience.  It is Hagia Sophia though, that remains vivid for me.  I remember how the filtered light made the high roof of that dome seem slightly unreal, lending a sense of the sacred.

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2018



Wikipedia:  Hagia Sophia



Hagia Sophia – lonelyplanet.com

Interior – avasofyanmuuzesi.gov.fr

Blue Mosque – source lost





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