The Hagia Sofia

I don’t remember much of my history lessons from high school (sorry Mr. Carroll!) but I do remember reading about the Hagia Sofia.

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Largest dome in the world for hundreds of years, an architectural engineering marvel that collapsed several times and had to be rebuilt, this was my first stop in Istanbul.

I love these marble floors, grooved and worn from almost two thousand years worth of people walking over them.

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And these low flat chandelier light fixtures that were once oil lamps and now are electric.

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The ceiling is almost impossible to photograph because of the height and the scope.

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Here you can at least see some of the scale, and the scaffolding that covered half the main floor.

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The Hagia Sofia was a Christian cathedral for 1000 years and then in 1453 when the Ottomans took over, they converted the Hagia Sofia into a mosque. They removed all the figurative art – in accordance with Islamic law – and plastered over any mosaics of people. Those giant discs are made of wood and leather and have the names of Islamic prophets and caliphs.

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Any statuary is gone for good but you can see the restoration efforts are attempting to remove the plaster and reveal the Byzantine mosaics.

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Beautiful cats run wild all over Istanbul. Even in the mosques.

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We walked up to the second floor by way of a ramp instead of stairs. Sultans were carried by servants, even in church, and I’m guessing stairs are tricky while holding a massive wooden litter.

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The arches in the top gallery are kind of incredible

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As is the view

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I found the Hagia Sofia to be quite beautiful although it felt empty. It’s been a museum since 1934 and has lost any feelings of warmth or human interaction. It’s also under a lot of construction for restoration and parts of it are quite dilapidated. I’d be very interested to see what it looks like if they can restore the paintings and some of mosaics.

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It’s worthy of a grand rebuild. Such an important building in the history of the world.

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