Results 1-10of 26 Reviews
new york, New York
March 4, 2010
From journal Winter Trip to Istanbul
by Liam Hetherington
Manchester, United Kingdom
October 27, 2009
From journal Holy of Holies
New York, New York
November 7, 2008
From journal Three Days in Istanbul
August 27, 2007
From journal Turkey with Teenager
July 13, 2006
Although this church may look a bit worn-down, especially on the outside, it still has a lot of heart. You don't need a tour guide to enter and if you don't want to pay for one then ignore the touts around the entrance.
The Church of Holy Wisdom was originally constructed in Roman times and contains Byzantine architecture. Parts of the building periodically collapsed. The church was made into a mosque following the conquest of the Turks, and you'll see lots of hanging examples of Islamic calligraphy. Be sure to look up at the very tall ceilings; you don't want to miss all of the little touches. Take your time exploring this vast church/mosque/museum and keep in mind that you can explore the second floor.
From journal Istanbul, Turkey: West and East
April 8, 2006
From journal Istanbul Adventure
October 24, 2004
Sulyman the Magnificent ordered that the mosaics be removed, in accordance with the Muslim law forbidding icons. Fortunately, plaster was used, and many of these mosaics have since been restored. As you pass beneath the lustrous vaults of the portico, the stunning mosaic image of an emperor prostrating himself at the feet of Christ leads you into the massive central space of the church. It was in this space that emperors were crowned.
None of the treasures from the interior survived when the church was looted by the crusaders, and many of the mosaics were defaced by the Iconoclasts in the 8th century. The bronze door and the lovely marble work around the entry are original. In the apse, an exquisite Virgin and Child mosaic is stunning. The Virgin’s softly modeled face and wide luminous eyes appear almost human.
Follow the ramp up to the gallery for a closer view of the soaring domes and to view the remains of lovely mosaics. It is also a great spot to survey the gilt calligraphic inscriptions on the round plaster medallions, which bear the titles of Allah and the names of the Prophet, since the first four caliphs are located high on the columns. When Ataturk turned the building into a museum in 1936, the medallions were taken down but were then re-hung in the 1950s.
At the far end of the south gallery, in the mosaic of Christ between Empress Zoë and her husband, Constantine is unique because his face was superimposed over the faces of Zoë’s last two husbands (he outlived her).
When the church was turned into a mosque, two large alabaster urns were brought from Pergamon to be used for the ritual washing. The baptistery became a mausoleum holding the tombs of two sultans, Mustafa 1 and Ibrahim. The garden also holds tombs of sultans and a few murdered princes.
A popular spot is the weeping column. The fluid is purported to have miraculous powers. People stand in line to stick their fingers into a small niche. In reality, the porous stone draws water up from an underground cistern. Of course, I had to try this phenomenon, and I did feel a small damp spot!
Two popes have visited this church, Pope Paul VI and John Paul I. It is truly a masterpiece. Open Tue-Sun, 9:30am-4:30pm. Admission $6.50, students $2.50.
From journal Istanbul Mosaic
Six minarets reached like stalagmites toward the incredibly blue sky. It was a stunning and unforgettable image evoking the tales of the Arabian Nights.
The Turkish architect Mehmet Aga built the mosque in the 1600s. The intention was to build a mosque to outshine that of the Sofya Aya. Both edifices are magnificent. Sultan Ahmet the First ordered that the mosque have six Minarets, but he had to pay for a seventh to be added to the mosque in Mecca.
We entered the mosque by a side door; only Muslims may enter through the massive main portal. An impassive custodian ensured all footwear was removed whilst scrutinizing the dress of females, as a hair covering is required and supplied if needed.
The interior is awash in a sea of blue Iznic tiles (approximately 20,000). It is said that one tile is worth about $35. Soaring aloft is a canopy of heavenly domes supported by four massive pillars. The center dome is109 feet wide and the pillars are 15 feet thick.
Shafts of light from hundreds of stained glass windows bathe the entire room in a magical pale blue haze, which imbue this massive space with illumination and serenity. A huge chandelier lit with tiny bulbs hangs from the center. The wires holding it are barely visible, creating the feeling of a star-filled room.
It was a totally mesmerizing experience and I know my description fails to impart its sheer splendor and majesty. The floor coverings are rich ruby-red Turkish carpets with smaller prayer mats atop, but it is the soaring domes and the sheer size of the interior that astounds the visitor.
Don’t miss the sound and light show every evening at dusk. The show is in a different language each evening, but whatever the language, it is not to be missed.
Sultan Ahmet died around 1617 at the age of 28. His tomb is near the mosque and is well worth seeing. The ebony doors worked with inscriptions from the Koran and the tile work inside is amazing. Entrance to the mosque is free, but a donation will be requested as you exit. Fee for the tomb is $1.
Carshalton, United Kingdom
June 13, 2004
From journal Istanbul - Minarets and Magic
A good starting point for a visit to the Mosque is to walk round the exterior to get a good view of the external architecture. The six minarets were considered somewhat scandalous the time the Mosque was built, six minarets being seen as an attempt to rival Mecca.
The way the domes seem to sit on top of each other and the balancing effects of three minarets, one on each corner of the complex and two at the centre of each of the longer sides, gives the exterior a harmonious air. Looking through the entrance to the Mosque complex from the Hippodrome there is wonderful view of the domes, framed by the archway of the entrance, cascading towards the courtyard. Please note, however, that this entrance is closed to the general public and only open to worshippers. Therefore care and respect should be shown when viewing this.
As you approach the Mosque, you notice the stone seats and taps where worshipers perform their ritual ablutions before prayer. In the courtyard there is also a small and attractive ablutions fountain. The courtyard itself covers the same area as the floor of the prayer hall giving a sense of equilibrium and balance. Standing in the courtyard and allowing your eyes to wander up one of the minarets really does raise your view to the heavens.
The inside of the mosque is spacious and peaceful; though I would imagine that the latter depends on the time you visit. Huge intricate chandeliers hang a few feet above your head, the blues reds and gold’s of the decoration draw your eye which, as with the minarets, will lead you to look upward towards the painted interior of the dome and semi-domes.
It is a truly wonderful building, serene and majestic. The aesthetic of the interior and exterior is beautiful and harmonious and the expression of faith contained in the building is quite humbling.
During the summer months there is a very interesting Son et Lumiere show just after dusk, which includes an imagined talk between the architect Mehmet Aga and his mentor Sinan.
It is probably best to visit the Mosque in the morning soon after it opens to the public (about 9.15/9.30am) and before it gets too busy. Visitors should dress modestly i.e. long trousers or skirts, no shorts, women should cover bare shoulders and also make sure they have a headscarf to cover their heads. You will be asked to take off your shows and carry them with you (a plastic bag is provided). There is no set charge to visit the Mosque but a donation is requested.