Friday, September 7, 2012

Istanbul, Sacred Places

We visited Istanbul for three nights, took our week’s tour already described, then returned to Istanbul for a further three nights. As we had spent a week in the city last April, we did not revisit many of the major sights, but set out to find new ones.

There is no doubt that Istanbul is vast and that it is impossible to see everything. For convenience, I shall group some of the sights together, not necessarily chronologically.

On the agenda were several mosques we had not previously seen, the Chora Church and a return to Agia Sophia. We set out to find the Suleymaniye Mosque but somehow took a wrong turn, ending up at the Sehzade Mehmet instead, which was good, as it was a very beautiful and peaceful place.

Istanbul,Sehzade Mehmet dome
Dome of the mosque
Istanbul, light in SM mosqueThe gorgeous central light Istanbul, carpet SM mosque
Interior. The lines on the carpet indicate where to stand and kneel
Istanbul mosque minbah
Mimbar in mosque

Finding our way onwards, we did reach our original destination. The interior was not as beautiful in our opinion and it somewhat lacked the cooling breezes, despite its situation high and overlooking the harbour.

Istanbul, Suleymain Mosque N
Istanbul, Suleymain Mosque outside
Istanbul, Suleymain Mosque
Istanbul, to the harbour from mosque N
From the mosque, looking down to the harbour

The Chora Church (St Saviour in Chora) was high on my priorities. Just inside the massive walls of the old city, it is now a museum, decorated with the most beautiful frescoes and mosaics. They leave you breathless really, with everything from the spotted leper being cured to a gorgeous peacock in the corner of an arch, a magisterial Christ and a tender Madonna and child, translucent angels and saint filled domes.

Istanbul, Chora 1 N
Apse fresco
Istanbul, chora angels
Angels in a dome
Istanbul, Chora, Pantocrator
Pantocrator mosaic
Istanbul, Chora, madonna
Madonna and child
Istanbul, chora angel
Istanbul, Chora Peacock N
Peacock mosaic
Istanbul, Chora St Peter N
St Peter, insouciantly dangling his keys
istanbul, chora, cana
The marriage feast at cana

We managed a return to Agia Sophia because we both loved it so much on the last trip. I found myself concentrating on the shapes of the lights in the dark. I find the low lighting in these huge buildings endlessly fascinating. Of course, in the days of oil lamps they needed to be low so the faithful could see and read. Now replaced with electric bulbs they are not quite as I imagine they must have looked, but they have kept the original forms. Judge for yourself. I wonder why we insist on replacing older light fixtures with fluorescent tubes or weird modern lights?

Istanbul, agia sophia dome
Istanbul, Agia Sophia gallery
Upper gallery
Istanbul, agia sophia madonna
Madonna in mosaics
Istanbul, Aya Sophia decoration NPainted decoration
istanbul agia sophia apse
Istanbul, agai sophia light
Istanbul, agia sophia lights
Series of lights
Istanbul, agia sophia, light3

Following the Agia Sophia we realised we could visit the tombs of the sultans. These are in five pavilions behind Agia Sophia, are free to enter, and hold not only the sultans, but their wives and children, all in sarcophagi covered in green, a holy colour in Islam. The sarcophagi of the males are identified with a white turban shape. There were many, many tiny sarcophagi, indicating death very early in life. I have no idea if this was natural or whether entire families were put to the sword. My knowledge of history is sadly lacking for the Ottoman Empire. The tombs are marvellously decorated with tile, calligraphy, stone, wood inlay and decorative designs.

Istanbul, tombs of the sultans
Sarcophagi under a dome
Istanbul, sultans tombs, tiles
Beautiful tiles
Istanbul, tombs of the sultans, inlaid door
Wood door inlaid with mother of pearl
istanbul, tomb, calligraphy
Calligraphy in the tiles

Next: Out and about Istanbul

No comments:

Post a Comment