And then they came to the holy city of Byzantium – Haghia Sophia 2

The Imperial Doors are massive and must have required a lot of effort to open and close. They also must have been difficult to break through. I would like to think they are original, but I don’t think they can possibly be 6th century. Looking through the Doors in this picture you can also see the marble panels, particularly the pink striated ones, which are also a feature of the inside of the church.

As I step through the Imperial Doors I am immediately struck by the sheer size of the building and its spaciousness which the pictures don’t really convey very well.

Walking into the middle of the I look up at the huge dome which is simply staggeringly beautiful. It stands at 184 feet high and it’s a marvel to see how such a structure hangs in the air without any internal supporting columns, creating such a huge open space.

The figures in the squinches are interesting: to me they look like representations of the Holy Spirit but according to my guidebook they depict the Seraphim.


There are further examples of the simple cross used to cover over depictions of sacred figures during the periods of Iconoclasm in the 8th and 9th centuries, such as this one:

There are also numerous examples where these Iconoclast crosses have been altered to incorporate them into a more geometric pattern.

I assume these changes were made after the Ottoman capture of Byzantium, perhaps because the image of the cross was perceived as more offensive to Islamic sensibilities. All the same it is curious that not all such crosses in Haghia Sophia have been altered in this way.

In the apse is a magnificent mosaic of the Mother of God with Christ.

In the apse is also a fragment of a mosaic of the Archangel Gabriel:

There is an unbelievable richness in the detail of the decoration:

Curiously reminiscent of the depiction of Christ through the image of an empty throne in the very earliest icons, there are two empty spaces on the ground floor of Haghia Sophia. The site where the Emperors were crowned:

And finally on this floor the site of the Patriarch’s Chair:

Sic transit gloria mundi…


4 thoughts on “And then they came to the holy city of Byzantium – Haghia Sophia 2

  1. Pingback: From Georgian drinking song to ‘Long live the Emperor!’ | wordscene

  2. Pingback: The multisensory experience of worship in Haghia Sofia | wordscene

  3. Good morning! I’m an intern at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts, and I currently curating an exhibit on Iconoclasm that will be featured in the museum. I am interested in a photo on this page, is there an email where I can discuss this further? Thanks!

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