- Hidden Crosses in the Hagia Sophia Courtyard
- What’s Shunned Now at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
- New Glimpses in the Hagia Sophia
Despite the attempts to make the building an Islamic exhibition, take advantage of some new glimpses on your Hagia Sophia visit (Aya Sofya Camii). Once the largest church in the world from 537 to 1520 AD. As advertised: Once a church, Later a Mosquehttps://muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/ayasofya Still, many Byzantine sacred symbols reveal the past purpose.
Jesus said I am the Door!
When entering through any door, notice the pattern on the doors. They display former holes or shadowy markings of a former crossbar. Each entry formally featured a cross that non-Christians removed.
Despite the torn horizontal bar, the doors testify that the entrance to the sanctuary came through the cross – reminding believers that entry into God’s presence is by Christ’s death (John 10:9, 14:6).
The five-meter door on the left displayed a cross above and below; centuries ago, the Ottomans removed them.
The main entry door (seven meters), known as “The Emperor’s Door,” enters the center of the former church. A bronze coating weighs down the door and covers wood many believed to come from Noah’s Ark. Unfortunately, during Ramadan (2022), vandals took pieces out of it for charms.https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/imperial-gate-in-hagia-sophia-mosque-damaged-173144 The wood on this door is oak, but the Bible says Noah used Gopher wood for the Ark (Gen. 6:14), which is still unidentifiable.
Before entering through the Emperor’s door, notice who is exalted on the throne above this door. The Lord Jesus, with the Byzantine king, Leo VI, bowing to offer prayers to him. Formerly, the inner central dome had a cross. Similarly, another dome area on the southwest gallery showed Christ seated on his throne surrounded by the Apostles. These existed during the Ottoman mosque up to at least 1850.https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/drawings-hagia-sophia-loos-grelot.html the 19th-century drawings of the interior give quite a cross-dominated perspective, even after becoming a mosque. Also, flanked on each side between the other doors demonstrates sacred items to reflect God’s externality and his unconditional love. The black circles had religious symbols like crosses and doves.https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/19th-century-hagia-sophia-images-from-getty.html
A Glimpse of Heaven Below
Entering the Muslim prayer area, the previous sea-like marble that provided much reflection of light now gives way to the carpet. Before, Byzantine worshipers stood to worship, and likewise, believers today can on their feet pray for the place’s grandeur to speak to hearts continually. Yet, regardless of the rug, a marble section remains on display – the coronation area of the Byzantine kings (called Omphalion). The beauty reveals the different types of marble used in the construction of the former church. Many historians theorize that these stones display the king’s coronation or a symbolic victory over paganism.
Yet, Hagia Sophia, which means Holy Wisdom ought to give us reflection about God and His Word. Firstly, godly wisdom is better than precious stones (Proverbs 8:11). Then the four Seraphim above creates a heavenly scene like Isaiah 6, where they cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of Hosts.” (6:3).All quotes from ESV Another heavenly scene in Revelation 21 depicts multiple gemstones and their brilliance, where a voice cries out, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.” (Rev. 21:3) The use of marble here may have been an attempt to reflect the heavenly kingdom. The exaltation of God in using these elements in this setting would humble any Byzantine king. Or maybe the Byzantines wanted to keep up with the Persians, so they added the marble. The Scripture describes the Persian palace as consisting of “marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones.” (The Book of Esther 1:6)
Procopius, Justinian’s court historian, viewed the church as a heavenly scene by describing “it as a golden dome suspended from Heaven.”https://www.thecollector.com/hagia-sophia-throughout-history/
A Glimpse Above
I previously wrote about what the Mosque set up has hidden so tourists cannot see many items on the balcony. However, from the back center of the sanctuary, one can glimpse a bit of two mosaic images on the balcony’s eastern wall. Right from the apse and behind the Allah wooden plaque reveals two mosaics just above the balcony opening.
On the left is the 11th-century mosaic with the Lord Jesus holding the Word of God.
On the right, with baby Jesus, Mary sits next to Empress Irene and her husband, Empire John Komnenos II, who presents an offering. (12th-century)
Before exiting, the back wall of the sanctuary displays a magnificent black/white marble mosaic featuring a Cross centerpiece. On each side above the doorway, four marble slaps are centered by gray crosses—the archways above present cross-like images and designs. Then below the window arch, 12 marble circles create wonder.
Multiple times, I passed through the door but never saw the metal roof-like structure above the door on both sides of the entryway. Some label this a coffin-like form that displays crosses on the exterior side, and some believe connected to Constantine’s time.https://hagiasophiaturkey.com/emperor-door/
Passing Unlabeled Byzantine Furniture
After placing one’s shoes back on, turn right to visit both far ends of the north-south vestibules. A few unmarked items sit in the corridor in some of these spaces. A royal stand for teaching, a water laver, and a grave sit in some of these side areas. The purple marble came from Egypt, called porphyry, and the Byzantine rules made many precious items from this stone, such as church columns and the Emperor’s graves (located in the courtyard of the Archeology Museum).https://istanbultarihi.ist/690-hagia-sophia The water laver most likely previously sat in the Atrium as some of the fountains there were made out of “red marble.”https://hagiasophiaturkey.com/the-fountain/
A Mirror Image
Exiting toward the south, formerly the church’s entrance vestibule. The mirror above the door displays the mosaic which you just walked under. The Byzantine royalty honored their worship place by placing symbols to turn one’s mind toward God’s greatness. This was previously a main entryway from the square on the south end. Notice in Justinian’s hands that he gives a model of the church with a cross on top. I wrote about this possibility in Hidden Crosses in the Courtyard.
Hagia Sophia Narrative
Mistakenly the 10th-century Islamic historian Al Masudi said, “Then the Christian religion appeared in Byzantium and the centres of learning were eliminated, their vestiges effaced and the edifice of Greek learning was obliterated.” On the contrary, the Byzantine’s love of art and creativity went beyond what Al Masudi’s religion could fathom. Christianity did not eliminate learning or deface sacred symbols, but many later Byzantine rulers forgot to honor their Christian foundation. The period of Justinian building projects to the house of Comnenus in the 11th century gives witness to beautiful buildings. The architecture exhibits soaring spaces and precision to detail a model that parts of Italy and Russia learned to replicate.https://www.britannica.com/art/Byzantine-architecture These sites, like Hagia Sophia, heighten God’s glory and allow the mind to stand in awe of His greatness – continually focusing on what is that? Clearly, Byzantine’s influence on coming generations came through their architecture.
The current narrative states: “Hagia Sophia, the magnificent heritage of the glorious conquest…”https://www.ayasofyacamii.gov.tr/en The portrayal reflects their viewpoint on history. Their story started in 1453 when their conqueror obtained the city and the church. They declare, “Hagia Sophia…. is restored to its origin” and a “souvenir”https://www.apollo-magazine.com/hagia-sophia-capture-constantinople-29-may/ to display Islam. For them, the origin is not the hidden Byzantine history but redefining the place as submitting to the conqueror. (For more understanding of the difference between God of the Bible and Allah of Islam, check out Searching Below the Surface.)
In light of this, the Hagia Sophia is no longer regarded as a church or described as a Byzantine site. However, on our visit, may we not just gaze quickly but have the eyes to see the story before us. The emperors desired to build for eye fixation to stimulate the mind to marvel at God’s beauty. So we would stand and worship, musing the cross and glimpse to obtain holy wisdom in this unique sanctuary.
|↑3||https://www.pallasweb.com/deesis/drawings-hagia-sophia-loos-grelot.html the 19th-century drawings of the interior give quite a cross-dominated perspective, even after becoming a mosque.|
|↑5||All quotes from ESV|