Sunday, March 18, 2012

Istanbul was once Constantinople - Part Two: Mosaics

Being the bridge between Europe and Asia, Istanbul has been a natural crossroads for several major empires throughout its history.  It has been occupied by the Romans, Macedonians, Persians, Byzantines, and Ottomans before becoming a major city in the modern country of Turkey.  With all of that changeover throughout the centuries, there is an interesting mixture of architecture in Istanbul.

During the 14th century, the ruling Byzantines (by then a declining empire) put their mark on the city with beautiful mosaics in the Chora Church, which are sometimes compared with the mosaics in Ravenna, Italy in the Basilica of San Vitale.  The latter mosaics were actually built much earlier, however, in the sixth century by Byzantine emperor Justinian.

Besides the Chora Church, we also came across some lovely mosaics inside the Hagia Sophia.  Check them out:

Atop one of the entrances into the Hagia Sophia is this sparkling gold mosaic depicting a guy offering up the Hagia Sophia (originally a Byzantine church) to Christ.

On the right, there's another fella that's offering the city of Constantinople (named after emperor Constantine) to Christ.

Inside the Hagia Sophia you pass under this archway into the main room.  I was very impressed with the detailed color and shading of these mosaics.

On the top floor of the Hagia Sophia is this wall with a damaged mosaic of Christ, John the Baptist, and one other figure.  Again, the detail of the facial expression of John was striking.

The Chora Church is a nice little gem in Istanbul that is covered head-to-toe with more mosaics.  Most of them are on the ceiling, giving your neck quite a workout.

Here Jesus is being tempted by Satan, depicted as a dark angel.

Everyone's favorite miracle, and Jesus' first - turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana.

Here the disciples and Jesus are looking at the leftover portions of bread and fish in the baskets after feeding the multitudes.

At the top of this dome we've got Mary and her ancestors.

In another dome we have Jesus and his Biblical genealogy.

Jesus and Mary, with the coloring on their faces resembling a painting.

Madonna and child

This ones called "Dormition of the Virgin"

This one is actually a fresco painted on the ceiling in the Chora Church depicting the Last Judgement.

One last cool ceiling fresco with the virgin and child surrounded by angels.

Next, we'll be looking at some more sites in Istanbul.

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