The ladies and I planned for a one day layover in Istanbul, Turkey, on our way home from visiting Kenya. We took a boat trip on the Bosphorus Strait.
Of course, the main attraction was the Hagia Sophia. We only had a few hours the next day before heading to the airport for the flight home. I spent a good portion waiting in line just to enter and the rest of my time soaking up as much Hagia Sophia as I could.
Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum in February 1935.
Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture.” It remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the previous two having both been destroyed by rioters.
Mihrab is a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla; that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. The wall in which a mihrab appears is thus the “qibla wall.”
Synodicon (Synode Mecesi Kararlari) in Hagia Sophia is a record of decisions passed by a general synod (a regular supreme religious assembly) that was held at Hagia Sophia in 1166.
The Virgin and Child mosaic was the first of the post-iconoclastic mosaics. This mosaic is situated in a high location on the half dome of the apse. Mary is sitting on a throne without a back, holding the Child Jesus on her lap. Her feet rest on a pedestal. Both the pedestal and the throne are adorned with precious stones.
We saw a lot in less than 24 hours on the ground. Enough to convince me that when we have more time, we have to come back to explore the rest of this historic city.