From the time-machine: Istanbul’s Aya Sofia


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Two years ago we decided to spend Christmas in Istanbul, and I was thinking about it earlier today. Of course, I also went back to Istanbul with my good friend Sarah this past September, so I have more recent memories as well.  I really love Istanbul. No, I mean I REALLY LOVE Istanbul. If I wasn’t living in London, I could very easily be convinced that the Bosphorus was the place for me. 🙂

So here are a few pictures from the Aya Sofia, (follow the link for all the information about the site). It was built as a Christian church in the year 537 during the Byzantine Empire. It was a Greek Orthodox Basilica until the year 1453, when Byzantium was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and the city became known as Constantinople. At that time, the Aya Sofia was converted into a mosque. Many of the religious icons in the church were destroyed, but some of the most beautiful mosaics were simply plastered over, which actually protected them quite well. The building served as a mosque until 1931, when it was closed for four years. In 1935 it was reopened as a museum, although it is the building and it’s history that is being preserved, not any collections inside. (There are some snarky comments on TripAdvisor about people who are expecting a traditional museum experience – clearly they didn’t do their homework!)

Some of the largest and most impressive doors I have ever seen. I like the arrows telling you which way to go. Those Byzantines had good way-finding!

Some of the largest and most impressive doors I have ever seen. I like the arrows telling you which way to go. Those Byzantines had good way-finding!

To give you a sense of scale.... Alex is just about 6 feet tall!

To give you a sense of scale…. Alex is just about 6 feet tall! Notice how the marble in the center of the floor is worn down from centuries of foot traffic.

Looking down into the main space. It's fascinating because many of the Christian and Islamic remnants are still visible, coexisting side-by-side.

Looking down into the main space. It’s fascinating because many of the Christian and Islamic remnants are still visible, coexisting side-by-side.

I love the detailed stonework. It looks like lace, but it's carved from rock.

I love the detailed stonework. It looks like lace, but it’s carved from rock.

One of the most well-preserved Christian mosaics.

One of the most well-preserved Christian mosaics.

They have these hanging chandeliers in the main space,  which creates the odd effect of a false ceiling. It minimizes the vastness of the space, but offers much needed light during the winter days.

They have these hanging chandeliers in the main space, which creates the odd effect of a false ceiling. It minimizes the vastness of the space, but offers much needed light during the winter days.

A view of the arches that support the large, interior dome.

A view of the arches that support the large, interior dome.

This must be one of the most popular spots to take a photograph in Istanbul - with the Aya Sofia in the background!

This must be one of the most popular spots to take a photograph in Istanbul – with the Aya Sofia in the background!

Luckily for me, Alex has a work trip to Istanbul next fall, so I’ll definitely be going back again!

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Posted on 23/12/2014, in travel, Travel to Asia, Travel to Europe and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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