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St. Sophia :: Touring


On November 24, 1934, it was decided to convert Hagia Sophia into a museum. The entrance to the mosque is from the West. After passing on the box offices, one enters a broad courtyard. This is a courtyard, which was formerly at the time of Justinian having a columned porch and a fountain for ablutions in the middle that was called Phiale. The Byzantine people went inside, after cleaning themselves at this fountain. In the old sources that survived, it is noted that there was an inscription which read: "Here not only wash your hands and faces, but also your hearts as well." It is known from old pictures that these columns, which were tied together with arches, were still intact in the 1870's. The floor of the courtyard was a great deal lower than its present level. It is asserted that the Patriarchate was located during the Byzantine period, at the sites where today the fountain of ablutions and the school for boys (siibyan mektebi) are seen, both of which were built by Sultan Mahmud I.

The school for boys, confronting the fountain for ablutions, is a single-domed simple building constucted by Sultan Mahmud I in 1739. Today, this building is utilized as the library of the museum. The fountain for ablutions was also built by Mahmud I, but a year later in 1740. It rests on eight slender columns supporting eight pointed arches. Decorarative in stYle, the fountain is ornamented with abronze network on which the floral designs are engraved, and is circled with an inscription of a panegyric poem commemorating 1 the date. At the east of the fountain for ablutions and beside the exit route from Hagia Sophia, there is a charitable public fountain.

The Baptistery , which is located at the South of Hagia Sophia, has been converted in the Ottoman period into mauselea for Sultans Mahmud I and Ibrahim. The old Skevophylakion, referred to as the Treasury Building, has today a different entrance and is being used as an office building for official use. The old suite for trustees is utilized as the museum administration, and the adjacent muvakkithane (a building made in order to keep time precisely for prayers) , which was constructed by Sultan Abdulmedjid, is used as offices for the museum, and the sebil (charitable public fountain) next to the fountain for ablutions is used as a warehouse for the museleum. One can see many architectural remains in the courtyard .of Hagia Sophia. One of these, is the remains of Fatih Medresesi (theological school of Fatih) situated in the east of the courtyard.

The remains near the entrance to Hagia Sophia, are those belonging to the Hagia Sophia church built at the time o Emperor Theodosius. These remains, which we see in a huge hole of two meters depth, are partly steps of a staircase and pieces that are architectural remnants with reliefs of lambs, dating back to the old Hagia Sophia. After the conclusion of our tour in the courtyard, let us now proceed to enter the interiorof the outer narthex though the triple doors. This section, which has no ornaments, has nine parts with vaults and is of 5.75 m. width. It does not display any architectural characteristics. Today, a small collection of Byzantine stone-cutting and masonry work is exhibited here. These are panels of mosaics, works of stone, baptism font, slabs with reliefs and copies of the Synode resolutions made in 1166, engraved on marble and collected by Emperor Comnenus. They are all from Hagia Sophia or from its neighbourhood. Besides these, one can see the tughra (monogram) of Sultan Abdulmedjid, made from the pieces of fallen mosaics, collected during the repair work undertaken by Fossati in the years between 1847 and 1849.

The Inner Narthex: Five different doors lead to the inner narthex, the width of which, is 9.55 meters. The doors are made of oak wood, the surfaces of which are plated wih bronze. The narthex, which is divided up into nine parts with arches, that are in parallel to the axis, the walls are covered with marble, and the inner narthex is higher and richer as regards to ornamentation, in comparison to the outer narthex. In the ornamentation, mosaics with geometric figures were used over a gilded surface and these have survived up to the present the grandeur of Saint Sophia of its original construction. The ceiling of the narthex is completely ornamented with mosaics. It is known that the door at the South, which was formerly called Horologion, and is presently usedas an exit from the museum, was exclusively used by the emeperors during the religious ceremonies. The bronze wings of a door taken out of a temple in Tarsus and brought to Istanbul in 838 by Emperor Theophilus (829-842) were installed at this door. The gilded panels over these wings that belonged to the Hellenistic period were torn down and taken away during the invasIon of the city in 1204 by the Latins. A panel of mosaics is located at this section, over the door leading to the inner narthex, showing Constantine I presenting Virgin Mary with a model of Istanbul, as well as Justinian, the Great, presenting her the model of Hagia Sophia. At the north of the inner narthex, there is a ramp leading to the upper gallery .

It is passed to the main body of Hagia Sophia through nine doors in the inner narthex. The three doors in the middle were reserved for the emperors. of these, the one in the middle is framed in bronze, and its wings are made of thick oak and plated with bronze sheets. On these sheet plates are stylized figures in relief of plants and crosses coming out of bowls. The door in the middle was for the exclusive use of the emperors. The emperors entered the main body of the church, after lying down in prostation. The golden ornaments covering these doors were also taken away during the Latin invasion. On the mosaics located over the door for the emperors, Emperor Leon VI is portrayed in lying down in prostration. After perusing over the former mosaics situated over the southern door and the latter mosaics, let us now proceed to the main body.


Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Hagia Sophia".

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