Istanbul hosts several churches that date back to the Byzantine Empire. However, the two most beautiful places that blow away minds, mainly because of their mosaics, are The Hagia Sophia mosque and the Chora Church.
The only building that has survived from Byzantine time is the Chora Church. The mosaics in Chora Church are grouped in the inner and outer narthex; the inner narthex represents Mother Mary's life. The outer narthex represents the life of Jesus. There is only one plain mosaic in the main center.
It can be helpful; if you visit with a guide to understand the mosaics better, as they are not in chronological order. The Frescoes Parekklesion in the tomb are valuable in the chapel section; the frescoes represent the Apocalypse day and the Chora church's patron Theodoros Metochite who was buried there.
The 1500-year-old Hagia Sophia has survived all the wars and destruction and is a famous historical building visited by tourists. The mosaics still stand out on the walls.
There are no symbolic images in Hagia Sophia, but only flowers, crosses, and fruit ornaments used for the walls and borders. M. Izzet Efendi's calligraphy is still visible on the central dome and other decorations from those times.
There were many superstitions in 727 about mosaics. People used to come to pray and wish in front of the icons, then came the iconoclast period where Leo II destroyed the mosaics, images, and icons throughout the city and The Constantine V.
Mosaic Art reached its peak in the 14th Century. After Mehmed II conquered Constantinople, he whitewashed and covered all the mosaics, especially figurative and easily reachable ones.
However, he did leave and preserved some mosaics with Christian figures like Mary and the Child. Many mosaics stayed intact until the 18th Century until the employees sold some. The remaining mosaics were plastered during Suleyman the Magnificent’s reign.
Gasper and Guiseppe Fossati brothers were hired in 1847 by Abdulmejid to restore and redesign the Hagia Sophia and uncover the mosaics. Then mosaics were covered again with shapes and flowers to hide them as the Sultan feared the people's reaction.
In 1923, the restoration work began for the mosaics, and in 1935 Hagia Sophia reopened as a museum. Later in 2020, the museum turned into a mosque.
As it is forbidden to pray in front of images and sculptures, the Religious Affairs president announced that the paintings would be veiled and the lights to dim during prayer time. However, the museum used to close at 5 pm but now will be open for tourists until night prayers like any other mosque.
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