Do you remember that beautiful, melodic song I raved about on Day 1? Well, timing is everything and I can assure you it sounds less enchanting when it’s drifting through your open hotel room window at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Day 2 was all about Istanbul. We began with a visit to the 1,500 year old Hagia Sophia. The church’s construction was ordered by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 532 AD. It only took six years to complete. When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II had it converted to a mosque. Thankfully they left the structure in tact (which is more than can be said when the roles were reversed), removing what Christian symbols they could (alters, relics) and covered up the mosaics rather than destroying them. They added the minarets and the minbar (the raised platform from which services are led by the Imam- pointing toward Mecca). As a result, today’s Hagia Sophia, now a museum, displays elements of both Islam and Christianity and those magnificent mosaics can still be viewed 1500 years later.
In this mosaic of Empress Zoe (figure on the right), it is said the face of her consort (figure on the left) changed three times during her lifetime.Rather than removing the entire person when her first two husbands died, they simply replaced the face.
Hagia Sophia means “holy wisdom”.
It is said the Statue of Liberty could do jumping jacks inside.
They built the Hagia Sophia quickly, finishing it in less than six years. To put this in comparison it took nearly a century for medieval builders to construct the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
Up next: The Blue Mosque, Chora Church, and nearly getting mugged at the Grand Bazaar.