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                               BLUE MOSQUE, HAGIA SOPHIA & BASILICA CISTERN -  ISTANBUL

The Blue Mosque

We had been admiring the magnificence of the Blue Mosque with its six minarets and great cascade of domes seen towering  above Sutanahmet Square.

Each night the mosque would be lit up with a flashing, ever changing colored narrated light show.

We entered the courtyard of the Blue Mosque where some ablution fountains are located. These ablution fountains are for people who are getting prepared to pray in the mosque. The requirement is to wash face, arms, neck and feet as well as mouth and nose.

There are beautiful tiered marble steps leading to the main courtyard, the marble comes from the Island of Marmara.

Inside the breathtaking interior of the mosque is lit by numerous chandeliers. The walls are covered with 17C blue Iznik tiles which give the Blue Mosque its name. The floors are carpeted with prayer rugs, full of people praying on their knees.


Istanbul's Blue Mosque was built partly as an effort to show Christians that Ottoman culture could produce something to rival the Haghia Sophia. Some believed that a mosque with 6 minarets was a sacrilegious attempt to rival the architecture of Mecca itself.

The dome rises to about 140 feet high and is 77 feet in diameter. Four colossal standing columns hold up the roof; they measure about 16 feet in diameter. 260 windows, many stained glass, let the sunlight diffuse into the building.

From the second floor the view of the architectural magnitude was astounding. The gigantic iron chandelier hanging from the ceiling was so huge, you could barely see the local Muslims praying below.



Haghia Sophia

Also know as Aya Sofya

Across the Park stands the supreme church of Byzantine, over 1400 years old. It's wide, flat dome was a daring engineering feat in the 6th century, and architects still marvel at the building's many innovations.

Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral ever built in the world for nearly a thousand years


Haghia Sophia was rebuilt in her present form between 532 and 537.

The vast edifice was built over two earlier churches, both destroyed by riots. In the 15th century the Ottomans converted it into a mosque.


The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were eventually plastered over.

One of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, Haghia Sophia is rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. There are innumerable colours of marble and rock on the interior surfaces, looking like a patchwork quilt of polychrome marble, green and white with purple porphyry, and gold mosaics.


The Islamic calligraphic roundels of verses from the Quran suspended from the main dome since the 19th century, blended with church mosaics. In here, these two huge religions coexist peacefully.


30 million tiny gold mosaic tiles cover the church's interior and dome They are being restored to the brilliance they boasted 1500 years ago so the interior is filled with scaffolding.

 

Millions of miniscule coloured tiles created glorious figurative mosaics. The best-known mosaic is called the De√ęsis Mosaic (left)

 


Basilica Cistern

We did not expect such a sighting when we entered the tiny door that led from the street and descended some stone steps. In the darkness was a vast cavernous area with numerous pillars emerging from the water. The underground water cistern was built in 532, mostly to satisfy the demands of the Grand Palace. Its existence was unknown by the Ottomans, discovered only after people were found to be collecting water (and fish) through holes in their basements.

The cistern covers 9800 sq meters with 336 columns,
each 26 feet high. The water was provide by aqueducts from 19 km north of the city.

Not only did the darkness make photographing difficult, tripods were not allowed in the Cistern. Chris managed some great shots nonetheless.

 

Some of the columns were carved and decorated, one
with a peacock
feather design

Two Medusa Heads provide the base for columns, one upside down, the other on its side.

It is said that Medusa was one of the three underground Gorgona  giant sisters and of these sisters only Medusa was immortal and had the power of transforming people who looked at her into stone. another legend says that Medusas hair was made of snakes so that is why anyone who looked at her turned to stone.