12 Oct 2010

Topkapi, The Blue mosque and Hagia Sophia

Today's Istanbul was actually Constantinople - the eastern capital of the Roman Byzantium Empire which ruled Anatolia and Byzantine until the late 13th century when it was conquered by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey had been ruled by the Greeks or Macedonians (sometime in 343 BC when it was conquered by Alexander), then taken over by the Romans who formed Byzantium and finally by the Ottomans. When Sultan Mehmet the 2nd ascended the throne of the Ottoman Empire, he laid seige to Constantinople, which had already been weakened by corruption and numerous wars. Two years later, Constantinople finally fell to the Turks - on 29 May 1453.

The ancient Byzantine empire, with Constantinople as its capital

During Emperor Constantine's rule in Byzantium he had built a large church to celebrate his conversion to Christianity - the Hagia Sophia. When Constantinople fell, the church too was converted into a mosque at first. The Turks however did not destroy the beautiful interior of the church. However Sultan Ahmet the first,  his heir, realised that he needed his own mosque, and instructed Sinan, his architect to design the largest and most beautiful mosque on top of the hill, close to the Hagia Sophia. This mosque is today one of the most beautiful in the world, and known to most people as the Blue Mosque. Its actual name is Sultan Ahmet Cami (Sultan Ahmet's mosque). It is indeed a splendid structure, with its graceful cascade of domes, its six slender minarets marking the corners of the courtyards and the lovely grey colour of the stones, set off by gilded ornaments on the domes and minarets.

Next to the Blue Mosque, just acoss the gardens is the Hagia Sophia or at one time called Saint Sophia's Church. There are still beautifully painted frescoes in the central hall and in the domes. Pictures of the infant Jesus and the Virgin Mary decorate the high ceilings of the central area, with gold coloured lettering of the words Allah and Mohammed covering the pillars.

Inside the Blue mosque

The main entrance to Topkapi Palace or Topkapi Sarayi

1 comment:

naida said...

What a fascinating trip! Visiting historical places is wonderful.
The mosque and the church look breathaking.