This is a place that has had some well known name changes. That makes for some confusion, but if you just think about older, old, and new, then understand that there are a few more name changes that aren’t so well known, be content with these three.
Speaking of old, we have been taking photos of the Hagia Sophia ever since we got here. We have attempted to visit several other times but found the line up to get in very daunting and so changed our minds. Today, however, we managed to not wait for any length of time, but came in with two large school groups. The history here is pretty astounding to say the least. Wikipedia contains the following information:
From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, Hagia Sophia served as the cathedral of Constantinople. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the previous two having both been destroyed by rioters. It was designed by the Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician. In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who subsequently ordered the building converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed and many of the mosaics were plastered over. Islamic features — such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets — were added while in the possession of the Ottomans. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey.
This business of plastering over the mosaics, or most of them, makes for a rather bizarre and mixed up interior decor. Coming in from outside with ‘mosque’ firmly seated in your brain (it does have four minarets and many domes) to be faced with many ‘church’ images is confusing to say the least. But getting to know the history a bit leaves one in awe of it all. Very worth the time and crowd dodging to see.
So next we go to see the other famous edifice on the other side of the square, The Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque as it is properly known. More often than not it is called the Blue Mosque because of the preponderance of blue tiles used to decorate the interior surfaces. I was somewhat disappointed really, expected it to be more blue and less regular. Compared to the Hagia Sofia it seemed sterile. So it is a thousand years newer and has a less dramatic history, but it is beautiful none-the-less, and no matter my reaction. The other really disconcerting thing about going to visit this Mosque is that it is a place of worship and in the Islamic faith you may want to go to the Mosque to pray a number of times each day. So all these tourists wanting to traipse in and around the Mosque with little regard for the main function of it, with signs everywhere directing tourists what to do and not do, just seems disrespectful. I would have felt more comfortable if there were a very few set hours in a day when tourists could go to see this lovely place without feeling intrusive. Maybe this is just me wishing for some quiet and reverence in one of God’s holy places. So here are my images of The Blue Mosque: