Wow, and a Few Other Words

This post was nearly ready to publish a couple days ago and something went nutty with the VPN and well…..let’s just say, most of it had to be done again. But it was worth it! Like I say in the title: Wow!

Friday morning we set out prepared to tackle the Hagia Sophia. We already had tickets! It was just past opening time! We should be able to get right in!

Well, not quite.


Still full of hope in front of the Blue Mosque


Oh my, that’s just a bit of the line to get in! (actually not that bad–about 15-20 min.)


But, the entrance line was still shorter than the “buy your ticket line”.


Beautiful view of the other side of the Blue Mosque while we waited in line.

A little history: The current building is the 3rd that was built on this site, the other two falling victim to riots and and revolts.

This building was built at the behest of Emperor Justinian I of Constantinople beginning in 532. Ten thousand workers and 5 years later, the first masterpiece of the Byzantine era was built.

Sadly, the church was captured and ransacked by the Latin Catholics during the 4th crusade. Precious artifacts were sent to the West where they still reside in museums. The Hagia Sophia became a Catholic church from 1204 to 1261.

The Byzantines recaptured Constantinople in 1261 and the H.S. once again became a Greek Orthodox church until 1453 when  Sultan Mehmed captured Constantinople with the intention of bringing Islam to the city. He immediately turned the H.S. into a mosque, the state it remained in until 1935 with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. It’s been a museum ever since.

The massive dome was a huge architectural feat, especially given that it was built in an earthquake prone country. Over it’s long history the dome cracked or collapsed a number of times. Each time, it was built or repaired by whomever had control at the moment. The last major effort to stabilize the dome was around 1550, and was accomplished by the world’s first earthquake architect, Mimar Sinan.


The beautiful ceiling in the grand hallway before you enter the nave.


Even with the scaffolding set up in it, the place is gorgeous!


Another look at the front hallway before going in.


Look at the size of these doors! They are called the Imperial Doors, and in Byzantine times, only the emperors were allowed to pass through them.


Have I mentioned that it’s all about the ceilings in Istanbul? There are 40 windows at the base of the main dome, another architectural feat. The dome was built like the inside of an umbrella with spokes that distribute the weight down to the floor.


Only a couple of these massive chandeliers had been fitted with electric lights. Originally they were candles or an oil lamp. So Phantom of the Opera-esque, aren’t they?



This spot is where Byzantine emperors were coronated.

Some more views around the nave.

DSC09595 DSC09596 DSC09597

This cherub and his 3 brothers on the other corners was covered up by the Ottomans. Only he has been restored. Personally, I think he’s a little creepy looking.


This photo looks to the left of the altar–the building is in the shape of a cross like all basilicas (because this was the first one!)  The beautiful ironwork “box” is the Imperial Loggia where the mezzuin would do the call to prayer.


These large discs are scattered throughout the nave and bear the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the first four caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed: Hassan and Hussain. They were added during a large restoration in 1847.

This long staircase  or Minbar is traditional for mosques–it is where the Friday sermon is preached. Behind it is the Mihrab, the most sacred place in any mosque. It points the direction of Mecca and thus the position for prayers.


The mosaic of Mary and the Christ child from 867ad.


The dome where the Mary mosaic sits.


The stained glass windows were beautiful.



Close up of the Mihrab


The main dome is at the top of this picture, with what I think are buttresses (running horizontally through the picture) that support it.


A long view into the sanctuary from the right side.


A panoramic of the upper part of the walls, where all the action is, decoratively.


See, I was there!


How Meredith feels when waiting around while I’m making test bubbles for Ben’s 360degree photo app.


The floor is slippery and smooth from all the millions of people who have walked over them throughout the years–and now that includes us.


Instead of stairs to get to the second floor, there was this continuous sloped tunnel that went round and round many, many times. The stones were very slippery and smooth from so many years of use.


We were now at the same level as the chandelier.


Close up of a medallion. Look to its right at the people, to get a perspective of huge it is.

DSC09626One of the ceilings of the hallway on the second floor.


Another view of the dome with all its 40 windows, from the second floor, looking toward the mihrab.



Arches on the second floor.


One of the mosaics that has been partially restored. They were covered up when the church became a mosque. This one is from the 12th century and is called Judgement Day. Jesus is flanked by Mary and John the Baptist.


The Virgin and Child Enthroned (12th century)


ChristEnthroned, 11th century


One of the many “sort of stray” cats in Istanbul. People make sure that they are fed, as evidenced by this cat we found on the second floor eating the cat food that had been left out for it.


The next few pictures are “pictures of pictures”; professional pictures with good lighting that were displayed upstairs.





Decent photography and no crowds helps, doesn’t it?

DSC09662I think this picture gives a great perspective on the size of this place (it’s mine, btw).


Detail on the columns


Hmmm…hallway to nowhere.

I liked the look of this spot, so I took a picture of it!


You could buy a replica of this famous sword at the gift shop.


The lines were even longer outside when we left about noon.

DSC09682It was such a beautiful day, I had to take a picture of the Blue Mosque with the fountain.

mail envelope easterEaster is over, it’s true, but Happy Easter from Kelly and me!


About DECRYPTKNIT: knitter on the loose in Shanghai

Hi, I'm Marisa Newhouse, a former pharmacist (for a brief time during the Reagan administration) who's real calling was probably anything that has to do with cooking, plants, literature and especially knitting; hence my last and favorite job, working at Woolyminded, a wonderful yarn store. But now, I have moved half a world away to Shanghai where my husband will be working. Lots of people are interested in what we will be doing here and I have always kept journals of our travels, so I thought I'd do it the modern way and keep a blog.
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