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St. Sophia :: Upper Galleries

Upper Galleries

Let us now walk over the ramp situated at the south of the inner narthex, leading us to the upper galleries of Hagia Sophia. Formerly, it was possible to reach the upper galleries on both sides, but today this way in the form of a ramp is the only access to them.

The first section of the upper floor is a place extending from end to end, and is covered with a cradle vault. This place, which was reserved for women, was formerly called as Gynekoion. This hall, which is considerably illuminated by the light infiltrating from the western windows, resembles the halls of the Byzantine imperial palaces.

The three arches supported by double columns of green breccia and the section looking like a lodge and opening to the middle, of which the floor pavement is limited to colourful stones, indicate that this place was reserved for the empress. At the front of all the upper floor galleries, there are marble railings, of which both the front and hind surfaces are ornamented. On these, it is possible to see scriptures of people visiting Hagia Sophia throughout the centuries. Among these, there are writings by the Vikings, who came to Istanbul during the Byzantine period. The wooden stretching rafters between the arches draw attraction. Sixth Century designs are engraved on these wooden parts. The vault of this gallery is covered with decorations made during the repairs between 1847 and 1849, imitating those of the narthex below.

The door facing this gallery , leads to the rooms, which are called as t rooms for priests. Today these I rooms are used as a warehouse for the collection of icons. As meetings were held under the Patriarch in the adjacent gallery , it is surmised that thes rooms were i reserved for patrIarchs and bishops. These rooms must be the place of big and small Sekraton, referred to in ancient sources. On the walls of these rooms some , designs have survived in a very bad shape. Among these, there are some portraits of the Patriarcs. Here, there are also some mosaIcsof the Virgin and Jesus Christ. These must have been made in the second half of the Ninth Century.

Let us now proceed to the southern gallery, which is adjacent to this closed up room. The southern gallery , which is on top of the southern nave, is divided into two sections by means of a door. This door is an imitation of a bronze door, and it is supposedly accepted that one side is paradise, and the other is hell. One surface of the door is worked out in panels.

There are five panels on each wing. On these panels, the religious subjects are worked out in the form of little compositions. These compositions were erased throughout time, and only symbols as a few fish and some fruit have survived. Inside this gallery, in the interior of the buttress on the right side after the partition, there is a small chapel, in which some fragmentary mosaics are still visible.

On the right wall of this gallery , which is well illuminated through the window on the side, the scene of Deesis attracts a great deal of attention. At the foot of the opposite wall confronting this scene, stands a slab of stone with an inscription, which is believed to mark the burial site of Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice. At the end of the gallery turning to the bema, the mosaics of Comnenus, which are one of the magnificient mosaics in Hagia Sophia, can be seen. After carefully examining these mosaics with satisfaction, and those of the mosaics of zoe, let us now walk to the aisle between the exedra and the wall of the apse, to turn our attention to Virgin Mary on the apse, for a close examination. A big piece of marble standing there, is made into a sort of a cage wall, by an artistic workmanship, creating the efect of a graceful lace.

If we immeadiately turn our back after entering the northern gallery, we can see the mosaics of Alexander. This gallery is very much similar to the southern gallery. Here exists only the above-mentioned mosaics. After seeing the Deesis, Comnenos, zoe, and Alexander mosaics in the upper galleries of Hagia Sophia, let us now conclude our tour of Hagia Sophia.

 



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

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