The Future of the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia shrine in Istanbul is a breath-taking religious and cultural icon that has stood the ravages of time, disease, and conflicts for over 1500 years. It is venerated and visited by millions of tourists each year – but that may change.

If you haven’t seen the Hagia Sophia, it is truly inspirational and worthy of your Bucket List.

The story about what you will see

The tale of the Hagia Sophia is an essential part of the tumultuous history of two of mankind’s great religions, Christianity and Islam.

It is interesting to note that the time intervals between significant events in the story of the Hagia Sophia encompass many human lifetimes and world developments.

In the beginning, Emperor Constantine the Great proclaimed Christianity a free-state religion of the Holy Roman Empire in 313 AD.

He also moved the seat of his one-third control of the Roman empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD. Having evolved into a corrupt social state, the city of Rome fell to Germanic tribes in 476 AD, but Constantinople survived to become the biggest and wealthiest city in Europe for the next 800 years. 

Millions of people of all faiths have worn down the mosque entrance over 1500 years.

It was the dream of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I to build a prominent cathedral in the capital city of Constantinople. The construction of the Hagia Sophia cathedral, whose name translates to Holy Wisdom in Greek, was completed in 538 AD, 32 years before the birth of the prophet Mohammed.

For 600 years the Hagia Sophia served as an Eastern Orthodox Catholic church. However, in the year 1204, Roman Catholic Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade plundered Constantinople and looted the treasures of the Hagia Sophia. The cathedral remained under Roman Catholic control for just 57 years before the Eastern Catholics retook Constantinople from the weaker army of Rome.

The Roman Catholic Fourth Crusade broadened the growing schism between the Roman Catholic Church centered in Italy and the Eastern Orthodox Catholic church of Constantinople – the weakened alliance made the entire Catholic empire more vulnerable to its enemies.

The Muslim conquest

Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Christian Constantinople in 1453 and turned the Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque and a grand symbol of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. At the time, many of the Christian icons in the Hagia Sophia were covered over with plaster.

Through the intervening centuries, the mosque had many renovations and significant reinforcements were made to the structure. During the renovation of 1739 Sultan Mahmud I, had most of the remaining Christian mosaics covered over with other art.

In the mid-19th century, eight striking calligraphic roundels with the inscribed names of Allah, and Muhammad and his grandsons were installed prominently under the dome.

In 1931 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the new secular Republic of Turkey commissioned famed American archeologist Thomas Whittemore to locate and restore the medieval Christian artwork in the Hagia Sophia.

The Hagia Sophia as a museum

When the work was completed in 1935 Atatürk opened the Hagia Sophia as a museum and a symbolic union between Islam and Christianity. The world celebrated Atatürk’s great gift for eight decades. Millions of tourists annually visit Istanbul and its incomparable and historic Hagia Sophia.

Typical of today

In 1935 Turkey’s first president Atatürk wanted to demonstrate to the international community of nations that the new republic of Turkey was taking a worldly turn – and all were welcome.

On July 10, 2020, the highest administrative court in Turkey declared that president Atatürk’s 1935 conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a secular museum was illegal. It ruled that the Hagia Sophia should immediately be returned to its prior status as a mosque.

Highly supportive of the court’s decision, on July 24, 2020, the nationalistic president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended Muslim prayers in the reinstated mosque for the first time in 85 years.

To his credit (and in light of the negative global outcry), president Erdogan has assured other nations that the Hagia Sophia will remain open to foreign visitors during non-prayer hours. The Christian art will be covered during prayers, but available to be seen afterward.

The change back to a mosque was a disappointment to secular non-conformists and cultural globalists, but it could have been worse – just look at the world around us.

For many years secularism thrived in Turkey. During our visits, we found the Turkish people most cordial and generous of spirit. Islam was evident all around us. We are not Muslims but we saw no evidence of religious bias. We felt welcome. Turkey was an excellent host and the country is eminently rich in history and culture.

See it if you can.

Safe travels.

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“Get out there, but be safe and prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff

 

The Sea Surrenders Treasures On Display In Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum is an ancient port city in southern Turkey along the coast of the azure Aegean Sea. We had the pleasure of touring this interesting old city, which includes a medieval castle and an underwater museum. They are just two of the many attractions we found to tell you about. But first, a captivating history.

In pre-Christian times, what is now Bodrum was a busy Persian Empire settlement called Halicarnassus. After a lengthy struggle, the city was conquered by the famous Alexander the Great in 334 BC. However, Halicarnassus has a 4,000 year history of conquest, and Alexander was not the first, nor the last to lay claim to the region.

Building the great castle

Some 17 centuries after Alexander, the Knights of Saint John – returning from one of the Crusades – chose a rocky peninsula in Halicarnassus harbor to build a castle dedicated to St. Peter. Construction on the Castle of St. Peter started in 1404 and the work was ongoing into the early 16th century.

The chapel was the first structure completed in 1406. It was followed by four towers, each named after the country of the Christian knights responsible for the construction, i.e., England, France, Germany and Italy.

Today the towers contain amazing sculptured carvings and relics from the sponsor countries.

The walls and interior of this majestic castle and grounds are remarkably well-preserved and maintained.

In the year 1523, and just as the Knights were completing their fortification, the Muslim leader of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent conquered the entire area including the castle. One of his first dictates was to convert the castle’s chapel into a mosque, which it remains today.

Since 1523, the castle has been a fortification, a prison, and a warehouse. In the early 1960s the Turkish Ministry of Culture turned the castle into an impressive history museum, and made it the home of the famous Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. The largest such exhibit of its kind in the world.

A vision begets a museum

The oceans of the world are ancient beyond memory or record. Man has claimed dominion of the seas, yet the seas are endless and forever, and man is temporal. Throughout history, man has challenged the unrelenting seas in a contest that has extracted a toll of untold thousands of lives and ships — some laden with cargoes and immense riches — all resting on the sea-floor and lost for millennia. 

The museum planners realized that there were hundreds, if not thousands of ancient shipwrecks in the waters surrounding Bodrum. Many of these vessels were carrying fortunes, and a castle fortification would be the ideal place to display them. In 1964 the lower area of the Bodrum Castle was dedicated to the display of underwater artifacts excavated from shipwrecks found in the Aegean Sea.

Note: No part of the museum is underwater, a frequent misconception because of the name.

Inside the museum

After lying in the dark waters for thousands of years, the fascinating Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology brings to light the mysteries so long hidden in the deep.

Replica of statue of Neferititi

The museum boasts 14 exhibit rooms of recovered relics of precious gems, jewelry, bronze, clay, iron and copper. One of the gold scarabs on display is inscribed with the name ‘Neferititi,’ the queen of Egypt. The only such artifact in existence.

The museum also houses the world’s largest amphora collection, including 200 undamaged amphoras from the 5th century BC. An amphora is a container usually made of ceramic or clay and used to store wet or dry substances like grain or wine. Some amphoras date back to 10,000 years BC. Amphoras are particularly important to marine archaeologists because their unique designs help date the age of a shipwreck and the ship’s origin.

There are painstakingly reconstructed shipwrecks in the museum.

The ship named Uluburun dates back 3,500 years and is the world’s oldest surviving shipwreck.

Finding undersea treasures today

Adventurers and treasure seekers, armed with ever-advancing technology continue to discover the secrets of the deep, but discoveries are gradual – the oceans still give up their own, reluctantly.

It is an interesting fact that most ancient wrecks occurred close to shore and in bad weather, and 95% of valuable relics have been discovered by sponge divers.

Before you go

Check with your travel agent. Several of our tourist resources are now reporting unofficially that Bodrum Castle, and the Underwater Museum are closed to the public for an undetermined time and reason. Although Turkey was one of the sponsors of our trip, we have not been able to obtain an official statement. Whatever the situation, we hope it is temporary. The first class museums in Bodrum are not only interesting, but important to our understanding of the ancient world.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff.