Sunday, June 26, 2011


Hagia Sophia in Istanbul began life in 360 as a cathedral, became a mosque in 1453, and then reopened as a museum in 1935. The resulting juxtaposition of Christian iconography and Islamic calligraphy says much about the city’s location at the cusp of Europe and Asia, and one can derive all sorts of optimistic fortune cookies about people of all faiths and cultures and races just getting along fine. It also suggests that there was a time when Muslim culture was a little more relaxed about depictions of human figures.

As you come out of the main dome area, and a sign to your right points you to a gallery. It’s not quite clear whether this is meant in the architectural sense – a long balcony – or the more conventional modern notion, of a place to put pictures. In fact, if you wind your way up a series of cobbled ramps, you find that it’s both. The area offers a a closer look at the magnificent dome, and also a view down on the nave, and all the other tourists taking photographs. But there are also a few more artworks hanging here: and at the moment they are photographs of the mosaics that you’ve just seen, and that the people down there are photographing. I can’t decide whether it’s deliciously postmodern, or all just a bit redundant.

Then we go to the gift shop and buy fridge magnets.


expat@large said...

Fridge magnets? Are you channelling my trip to Damocletian's palace in Split?

Tim F said...

I went there when I was 12, e@l. But in those days we didn't have fridge magnets. Or fridges. Or magnets.