Friday, May 25, 2012

Turkey: Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

I took this picture on a bridge in Istanbul as we took a walk through the city to a baklava shop. It was weird for me at first how different Istanbul felt from Jerusalem. It felt more fast paced and modern but yet there were all these buildings and walls from hundreds of years ago. There are 2,000 mosques in Istanbul and 98% of the population is Muslim! I always thought Utah was kind of a unique place having such a huge congregation of one religion but not even Utah is 98% LDS.  Someone told me that only 40% of the population in Salt Lake city is LDS now, which is kind of surprising if that statistic is right.
I love mosques. I wish I could have seen all 2,000 of them.
This is the Hagia Sophia, probably the most famous mosque in Istanbul. It is incredibly beautiful.
Hagia Sophia is HUGE. It’s hard to tell from the pictures but it literally swallows thousands of people. We had 90 people in our group and once we divided into two groups I didn’t even see the rest of the group once we were inside. Here’s a little glimpse. It’s stunning isn’t it?

This mosque is so interesting because it used to be the largest Christian Church in the world for almost a thousand years. But when the Ottoman Empire conquered Istanbul (Constantinople) then it was converted into a mosque by the Muslims. There was beautiful mosaics all over the walls that the Muslims plastered over for their own images. This was actually a good thing, because now that the mosque is a museum, they were able to remove the plaster and find that the plaster preserved the Christian images underneath so now the Hagia Sophia is a collection of half Christian images and half Muslim and it’s beautiful. Our tour guide told us that the reason the Muslims didn’t destroy the images was because it was a gesture of respect. Many of the people depicted in the Christian art are figures that are respected in Islam as well. Muslims, however, don’t have any figures of people in their mosques. My favorite Mosaic was this one of Christ:

Here’s what it originally looked like:
How do you create anguish like that by putting tiles side by side?
The posed pictures are getting a little boring…here’s the true experience of the Hagia Sophia haha

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