Monday, 29 December 2008

Back to Istanbul...

So, my next stop after the Cisterns was Hagia Sophia. This was built in 537 and was, for the first 900 years of it's exitance a Christian Church - indeed, as Constantinople was the centre of the Byzantine Empire it was considered one of the most important and holiest places in Christendom, and until St Peter's was built in Rome in (I think) the 15th Century, it's dome was the largest in the world.

It has some wonderful mosaics, and the whole thng is staggering in size. After Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, the church became a mosque, so many of the mosiacs were painted over (which, fortuitously, protected them) and others, most particularly the angels below the dome, were defaced, with their faces being removed.

After Ataturk established modern Turkey in 1923 the Mosque was deconsecrated and is now open as a museum - it is still under repair, and I have to admit that I found the size of the scaffolding almost as impressive as the size of the building itself. I also found it astonsihing to think of the age of it, and the skills of the architects, masons and artist who created it, back in the 6th century, almost 1000 years before most of the great cathedrals in europe were built.

As with most of the buildings and public spaces in Istanbul, it has it's own cats...

After the first evening's explore, I got up early in order to visit the Blue Mosque - (which is more properly the Sultanhamet Camii.)

Everyone seems to recommend going early, partly as it is less busy, and also (as far as I could see) there are fewer people there to pray, so you do not feel so much that you are disturbing anyone. There are signs requesting visitors to dress suitably, to remove shoes and for women to cover their heads, and also asking people not to disturb or take photgraphs of those who are at prayer. Not, you would think, unresonable requests. From a religious point of view I find it hard to belive in any god, and still harder to belive S/He would care how I dress or whether or not I have my head covered, but it seems to me that if I am visiting, somewhere which is considered sacred, and I am doing it not out of any religious belief but becasue it is beautiful and I want to gawp at it, then it is only polite to keep to the rules.

Judging by some of the other tourists, this wasn't eveyone's view. It did make me cringe a little, to see how rude and disrespectful some of the tourists were, particulalry as the Turkish and other Muslim visitors remained so polite to them!

The mosque itself is simply stunning. The outside is impressive in size, but comparatively plain, and, becasue of the domes, appears comparatively squat if what you are used to are Norman and Gothic cathedrals. But inside... It's simply breathtaking. As the name implies, a lot of the interior is blue, particulalry the tops of the walls, which are tiled, but a lot of the decor is red, too. It's just so delicate and intricate.



Dragonsally said...

Muslim architecture and decoration just blows my mind away, it is so intricate and beautiful.
what is it with people, not complying with those requests? So rude.

Kalipha Linden said...

More gorgeous Turkish photography! Verity here, of Manchester-Neil-Gaiman-signing-linery. Stumbled onto your blog via the Fabulous Lorraine's. Thought I'd wave!

Marjorie said...

Waving back. Yes should de-lurk over at Lorraine's too. We like de-lurkers (or have you another alias there?)