Istanbul: Holy Wisdom of Hagia Sophia

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

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Image: Ryan Mayer’s document.


As if to be the climax of today events, Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofia greeted us arrogantly; like a giant bored waiting for a legion of tiny ants. Not all pilgrims went to the museum that once served as church then mosque.

Mr. Anwar and Mrs. Ani, Mr. Rudi and Mrs. Ros, and Mr. Nugie’s family prefer to enjoy the afternoons by sitting on park benches looking at the fountains, falling leaves, as well as trams that crossed the old city street.

We entered the building that was first built in 360 AD through a large gate escorted by a pair of brown wooden doors that looked to be centuries old.

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Image: Ryan Mayer’s document.

Enter the gate i feel as if entering a vacuum room. When stepping the sound of bouncing boots echoed in the space that pillars are not the same shape and style. Zeki explained that it was deliberate because the building was built using the material of pagan temples that lost both popularity and congregations.

We passed another door to the museum’s main hall. Gazing at the foot seemed useless because there was nothing special except the white marble floor. But it’s different when we look toward the ceiling. That’s where the architectural splendor of Hagia Sophia provoked an awe. The giant domes that cover the roof do not have a single frame or pillar that sustains it. Arch or the giant arch is pure manually arranged using bricks and cement with a tremendous degree of slope.

Under the great domes the Romans decorated the walls with mosaics almost entirely of Christianity and Roman emperors such as Leo VI and Basil II. Mary’s Painting carrying Jesus and two saints were bowed on either side also plastered on the ceiling. There is also an adult Jesus painting sitting on the throne while an elderly man bowed before him. Lastly, do not forget the great painting depicting a golden angel looking down fiercely. In his hand is a golden sword. Zeki tells us that the Orthodox Christians believed that the angel really guarded the place.

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Image: Ryan Mayer’s document.

Under the mosaics hung several large green cirles. within it are written golden Arabic calligraphy. Two of them flank the painting of Our Lady. The right one says Allah while the one left prays Muhammad. In addition to these, Arabic calligraphy is widely spread on the walls of the museum. This unique phenomenon was the impact of the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet al-Fatih on May 29, 1453 AD. The sultan did not undertake destruction or massacre, he instead provided security guarantees against his predominantly Christian Orthodox population. This attitude of tolerance which then made many inhabitants of the city converted to Islam, including the priests. The Sultan did not take the property or the lives of the townspeople; he just convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Satisfied to hanging around and take pictures on the ground floor we went to the second floor through a ramp. Unlike the stairs that use the steps, the ramp looks more like a smooth uphill path. Zeki explained that the Roman people built ramps so they could easily haul the king’s lever from one floor to another.

The view on the second floor is not much different from the one I see below. Only there is a thin wall that limits the space near the stairs with the deeper part. Zeki tells us that the space behind this barrier signifies the temporary paradise that is near the ladder is still part of the world. I was reminded of raudah, one of the heavenly gardens that Allah sent down to the earth.

We left Hagia Sophia due to the closing of the museum. Outside, the sun was so red it seemed to say goodbye to the colored wall of the Hagia Sophia. The winter breeze soared to the point that Mr. Rudi, who used to visit his son in Upsala (Sweden), sent a message, “Can you get back soon? The ladies are frozen.”

The topnotch manager in the new oder era did not exaggerating.Granny  Uti was sitting shivering on a stone bench. Similarly Mrs. Ros whose face becomes whiter than usual. Mr. Rudi greeted us with a satisfied face as me and the entourage that entered the museum appeared before him.

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