May 31, 2014

A Building of a Thousand Histories

We were able to enter the building of with a thousand histories today. The Hagia Sophia (or Ayasofya). Just like the city of Istanbul itself, the Hagia Sophia has changed names, allegiances, and in physical appearance over the years. Depending on who controlled the city, named the building and worshipped within its walls as they deemed proper.

Romans made it a Christian Cathedral, Bizantines adorned it with their love of gold and art, and Islam revered it as a mosque. Today, due to a decision after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Hagia Sophia is a museum. The history of a thousand years in preserved for all of us to see. They are doing extensive restoration projects (including a big one right in the main hall) so there is scaffolding there.
Blue Mosque. On our way to Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

The building itself was awe inspiring. It covers a massive area and the dome stands nearly 180 feet high and is dizzying to stand there and look up. Even Tau’aho was excited about seeing the beautiful scenes. He would lean back as far as he could in the ERGO to see it.

We loved walking the halls where worshipers from many religions have walked. From an art, history or architecture standpoint, this building is impressive. We walked up the rough stone ramp that wound up to the upper tier and I was amazed at how that must have taken an engineering feat to do so many years ago. Not to mention what it must have done to make the arches support such a heavy dome.

Lucky was SO interested in the ceilings too

Lady Hiva said at one point, “It is too bad Sala is not here with us, she could give us the tour and historical details too.”

As we exited Hagia Sophia we could hear a commotion outside the compound. When we walked out we saw there was a HUGE protest—common in Istanbul—happening. There were chanting people carrying their flags and banners flooding into the streets. As the chanting became louder and more people came to join the procession, we looked for the fastest way out of the area. Other than it being really loud and in large number, it wasn’t threatening yet. But we did not want to wait around to see if it would get violent later.

We found a taxi down the street and we headed back home and passed several areas with swat teams staged and ready for the protest to escalate. Phew…glad we didn’t witness that!