Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008 Two Finallys: Aya Sofya and HAMAM!!!

Today we revisited Sultanahmet Mosque and went to Aya Sofya for the first time. Prof Shields had arranged for another friend of hers to take us around these two mosques, his name is Gunhan, but unfortunately I don't have his last name. He was doing his dissertation on Sultan Ahmet and thus was also involved in researching about the mosque itself so he was indeed the ideal man for the event of taking us and showing us around the Blue Mosque. After we walked around the Blue Mosque, Gunhan took us to Aya Sofya where he once again did an expert explanation of all that was invovled with Aya Sofya including history and architectural stuff.

Aya Sofya is an amazing building. It's around 1500 years old, and has gone through three major renovations with the third type being the building we see right now. When Constantine founded the city, a church wasn't there and it wasn't exactly a concern for Constantine since at first he was a pagan. After his conversion however, churches became more important. During his time there was Aya Irene, but that was a small church. Constantine's son built the first version of Aya Sofya in around 360 AD--this church however had a very small lifespan of only 40 years and burned down in a fire. I think during this time it was called a megala iglesia, but I'm not entirely sure if I'm interpreting my notes correctly so don't quote me on that.

Theodosius II comes around and repairs it in the same manner--basilica with a stone roof. This is still continuing the transition period between paganism to Christianity. Around 430 AD the name of the church changes and becomes Aya Sofya, meaning Divine Wisdom. (Aya Irene means Divine Peace, and there's supposed to be another church that goes for Divine Brotherhood but I have no idea which one that is.) Well, this second church has much the same fate as the first one and gets burned down during the Nika Rebellion.

Once Justinian gets back on the throne, he changes many things including the judicial system and writes his own called the Codex Justinian. Looking at some of the things he changed it isn't a surprise to see that he would have a bigger project in mind, and the third version of the Aya Sofya gets built. Apparently it was built in 5 years 10 months with 10,000 workers. The church was designed by Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus. You may want to call them architects but they were more like engineers because they had very good mathematical knowledge. Plus they were pretty dedicated which is why you could go this big with a church. Interesting tidbit of information about them--they were known for building models and they experimented with artificial earthquakes to test the stability of their models and thus their buildings.

Some interesting and random stuff about Aya Sofya: 20 years after it was built, and earthquake hit and its aftershocks lasted for 4 months. There are flying buttresses surrounding the building which were added for stability. It is also the second-most vertically distorted building in the world--Pizza Tower wins first place. On the northern side, it is 81 inches diagonal. Here's a rather blurry picture of Edward helping to hold up the columns. I'm sorry it's blurry but it does give an idea of the distortion of the building...

The major problem associated with the building is the humidity factor. Humidity affects everything, including mosaics, so they were plastered over in order to save them from falling off. Here I feel the need to insert a little lesson on Islam and it's view of images. Islam doesn't have a problem with images. Some may think that the excuse of "the mosaics were plastered over in order to protect them" a sorry excuse for covering it up, but it's true. Islam doesn't have a problem with images--the problem starts when those images become something that you pray towards.

Since we're talking about images and mosaics, here are some examples of said mosaics...

(in order of Jesus, John the Baptist, and Virgin Mary)

And an example of the first ever graffiti...interesting that its in a church...however, it was done by Vikings, or Goths, or some other type of nation from that area... :D

Here's an interesting mosaic that shows the Virgin Mary and Child flanked by Emperors Constantine and Justinian. Constantine is presenting a model of the city and Justinian is presenting a model of the church.

After finishing up walking around Aya Sofya, we went and got a late lunch before going to the hamam because our social chairs and also people who organized the trip to the hamam, Edward and Amanda said that we would need our strength as well as being hydrated well. So we ate some doner and drank a lot of water.

Finishing our lunch, we went to the hamam and I had my first ever hamam experience. It was really fun, we got washed and massaged and everything, all the time while singing songs and talking and gossiping and stuff. I enjoyed it immensely.

After the hamam, I went to a friend's house where we sang songs and had sohbet with Cemalnur. I was dropped off at home by a friend of my dad's. Good day.

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