Across from the Blue Mosque, with a Epcot-esque fountain park separating the two, stands another glorious holy building. Hagia Sophia (or Church of Holy Wisdom) began its life as a Christian church and later was converted into a mosque. Now a museum, it hosts throngs of Istanbul tourists six days a week.
While the Blue Mosque was lovely inside, the Hagia Sophia is jaw-dropping.
The space is huge, and you can roam upstairs or down.
You'll find words from the Quran and paintings of Mary and Jesus. The combination is startling, curious, and beautiful.
The interior had been undergoing repairs for some time ...
... so scaffolding was still up in places.
If you look carefully, you'll see angels in the corners under the dome. Only one had a face — we wondered why. Are the rest facing outward?
Later, while reading the International Herald Tribune at breakfast, we happened upon this little travel article:
"After what seems like ages, a portion of scaffolding has been removed from the interior of the Hagia Sophia, the church-turned-mosque-and-museum, allowing the best view in years of the soaring arches and colorful domes inside the sixth-century architectural gem. But the biggest change involves the roughly 700-year-old face of a mosaic angel.
It is visible, high above the building’s central hall, for the first time since 1849, when Italian restorers concealed it in compliance with the Islamic ban on praying before human images."What! How amazing! We got there just in time to see the angel's face. We felt quite lucky.
Ron was thrilled to see the marble columns. In the James Bond movie, "From Russia, With Love," our spy hero stands right by one in a scene actually shot in the Hagia Sophia.
The intricate capitals atop the columns caught our eye.
From the second floor, you could peer out a window and see the cafe below.
Here's a ground-level view. We paused at the cafe for tea and reflection. After all, the Hagia Sophia is quite a lot of beauty and history to take in during just one afternoon!