Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Hagia Sophia - Cathedral, Mosque, Museum, Mosque

The Hagia Sophia is in the news again as Friday prayers were held there for the first time since Kemal Ataturk turned it into a museum in 1935. Erdogan is playing to his base of strident nationalists and pious Muslims by making this move which is unpopular at least in all Christendom.

Erdogan misrepresents history of Hagia Sophia

Turkey says it will not touch anything but simply cover the Christian stuff during prayers. Which is better than the Turks did in 1453, when Mehmed II aka Mehmed the Conqueror, captured Constantinople, changed the name to Istanbul, and ended the Byzantine Empire once and for all. The Cathedral had no meaning to them but just to show who was now in charge they promptly built 4 minarets, one on each corner, and destroyed or plastered over anything remotely "Christian" looking.

My pictures from 1999 turned out to be of the Blue Mosque which I also visited, so I am borrowing a couple from Wikipedia. I did not take enough pictures that day.
By Arild VĂ¥gen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Christophe Meneboeuf - Own work The full series about Istanbul: Photos of Istanbul More of my work on my photoblog:
The Hagia Sophia was build in 537 by Emperor Justinian I as the Echumenical Patrirchal Cathedral of Constantinople (along with Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria). After the Great Schism of 1054, Christianity was divided into Catholic under rome and Orthodox under the Patriarchs of which Constantinople was the greatest.

Constantinople was not easy to capture. The Crusaders captured the city in 1204, looted and destroyed it to some extent. The Byzantines recaptured it 60 years later. The urks tried several times to take the city so it was a matter of pride to eventually capture it. They were not kind to the defenders and massacred a great many of the inhabitants. Once the dust and blood settled, the surviving clergy fled to Moscow which now considers itself the Third Rome and the intelligentsia fled to Venice, providing a major boost to the Renaissance.

For anyone interested in the decline of the Byzantium Empire and the fall of Constantinople, I suggest reading Roger Crowley's 1453: the holy war for Constantinople and the clash of Isma and the West.


  1. A beautiful place with a bloody history alright.

  2. There's a blast from my past History of Architecture classes. A spectacular building!


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