Monday, December 8, 2014

Hagia Sofia

I'm totally pooped. Today was my first shift at the Out of the Cold Shelter. Up at 5:15 a.m. to walk there by 6:00. Two new volunteers on their first shift who were nervous about what to expect. It was a quiet morning from my point of view, but I think meeting two fellows who's faces had the recent cuts and bruises of being hit in the face was disconcerting for the newbies. For some reason we are very low on all shoes and boots, underwear, socks, mitts and hats. I am surprised, we usually have tons by now. There was some jockeying for underpants (har har)

Well, my feet are tired and legs are sore, so I am grateful that today's work involves sitting down to write a blog post. Steve and I were asked to make up a slide show of Turkey for some friends to watch. We tried to keep it to under 200 images, but gave up.

Today, I bring to you the Hagia Sofia. It began life as a Christian church and then morphed into a Mosque when Constantinople was captured and the Byzantium Era came to an end. The Haifa Sofia is now a World Heritage site, open to all faith groups and a partial museum of some artifacts, both Muslim and Christian. I saw images of this church way back in the old days in black and white. I thought what an amazing place, I wish I could see something so beautiful and historic. And there I was, standing under a candelabra that was massively round. I swear a game of Little Tykes Hockey could have been played inside this iron ring. The cables holding these candelabra in place rose miles up to the ceiling.

The entry nave. There was quite a crush as people thought they were in the spot that was most glorious but just wait and see what comes next.
There is probably some technical name for this space but it is the teaser. Go through those columns and...
KaPow! I've been to the Grand Canyon with three bus loads of experts who drew out the beauty of those amazing canyons and this church/mosque is next on the list of completely amazing things to experience. The size, the materials, the details, the symmetry, the sublime light. If there had been a sunset in a corner somewhere, it would have been perfect.
We didn't have a guide book with us for the entire trip. I was glad of it, because we experienced everything on the merits right in front of us, instead of reading some version of why something was special. Every space here was lovely in its own way.
This is the only spot on the entire trip that I wished for a guide book. I do not know if the stain glass was original or put in place when the building became a mosque. It was like swimming in a clear, sparkling brook, beautiful reflections everywhere, with shadows that deepened the colours of the glass.
The Muslims who converted the church were luckily not interested in destroying things, but rather made pretty intelligent alterations to suit their needs.

Many of the mosaics were simply plastered over, making them easy to restore or mosaics were covered over with medallions that could be removed.

 We headed up a long ramp that switched back and forth. This was the route that the women of Sultan's Harem would use to get to their private space.
The view on the way to the private areas.
My third favourite intersection of lines, colours, patterns and light.
The next three images are my favourite of all spaces and images. This is where the women and children sat, looking down on the folks below. Overhead are the most beautiful mosaics. They have a dark navy blue back ground, making the gold really glitter and the whites just spring out. It is a soft, contemplative spot amongst all the glamour. The detailing is very feminine and delicate. The column in the final image is a lovely alabaster, carved the way I think love looks like. Whoever was responsible for this area loved and respected women. I could have sat there for hours, just being.

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