Thursday, April 12, 2012

İstanbul mosques + churches

While I'm not very religious, I always appreciate hearing the call to prayer (adhan) in Islamic countries.
It's something that echos through the streets 5 times a day and is a reminder to take a moment for things other than rushing through day to day life.
It's also a good way of telling approximately what time it is, although the first call of the morning shortly before sunrise never fails to wake me a bit too early for my liking.
Since Istanbul has so much history as a cross roads city of civilization, seeing places like the Hagia Sophia are really incredible experiences.
In the Hagia Sophia there were small details, like the well worn doorways and steps inside the museum that gave me reason to pause and think about just how old it is (it was first dedicated in 360!).
Over time so many people traversed through and fought over this very place in the name of religion, which ironically is now a secular museum that unites all faiths. 
Many of the beautiful details of the Hagia Sophia were covered when the Ottoman's over took Constantinople and turned it into a mosque in the 1400's, so some mosaics are damaged, others are being restored, and still there are hidden treasures beneath the layers of history.
The Deësis Mosaic is particularly striking, because it has such a sense of realism. I'm so curious what artisan had the patience and dedication to intricately place those tiny tiles.
Other mosaics, like the Comnenus mosaic feature the Byzantine blue. 
The lack of iconography in the mosques is also quite interesting and the subtle glow from the windows and lights is very beautiful. I like the use of light and color without relying on imagery. 
Some of the mosques we visited smelled like feet since the tourists don't go through ablution before entering.
Also, be prepared if you want to visit the mosques to have a head covering and conservative clothing. 

There's also St. Anthony of Padua Church in Beyoğlu tucked away on İstiklal Avenue. 

I had no idea there was such a strong Italian presence, but it does make sense considering both Rome and Istanbul were such great powerhouses for religion and trading.

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