From mosques to the Parthenon – from music to the Muslim culture of Turkey, the experience of studying abroad in a Greece has been nothing less than incredible. The groups travels through Turkey have shown me the effects of Westernization on the city and how this has created a conglomerate of people and its values from east to west. That is, although the city is considered to be ninety-nine percent Muslim, the city of Istanbul is a mecca of diversity. The most notable examples are the mosaics in the Haghia Sophia, and the restoration of Christian themes. Through visiting the Haghia Sophia and the Parthenon in Athens, as well as other locations which will not be mentioned, I have learned to appreciate the difference in culture, tradition, and art. This essay will explore the ways in which I have learned how each culture has contributed to what we see in modern day Istanbul, while I also discuss interpretations of the Parthenon and how its construction has contributed to current day architecture. Both of these examples I give have revolutionized my study abroad experience and hopefully your neurons.
Justinians rise to power began in 527 BC. His rule has been characterized by his profound effort to transform his empire into is former ancient glory. Justinians pronouncement that the emperors will was law resulted in outrage in the Hippodrome, where his policies where fought against in the Nika Riot. In the fourth century, Justinian built his great church at Constantinople or the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God. This was before the Ottoman Turks had conquered the city, and the transformation of church to mosque. The building was sacked in 1204, during the fourth crusade and since then the Christian mosaics have been restored. Today, the building is now one of the finest examples of Byzantine Art, and Justinians reign provides an exceptional example of artistic patronage and production. Before I continue further to discuss the restored mosaics, I must state that Byzantine Art is frequently misinterpreted by twentieth century scholars, who would disregard the Byzantines for being blind to what modern critics would call style. However, an appropriate stylistic language is to be accounted for the mosaics in the Haghia Sophia, which reflect a new turn in stylistic development of Byzantine Art.
A prime example of these figural mosaics, which represent the past western rule and the Christian religion, is above the tympanum at the southwest entrance. The Virgin is depicted enthroned with the Christ child sitting on her lap. Christ gives his blessing and, also, holds a scroll in his left hand. To the left of the Virgin stands Emperor Constantinemost notably known for being the first Roman emperor to convert the empire to Christianityand next to him is an inscription that states Great emperor Constantine Om the Saints. Justinian is to the right side of the Virgin, and he offers her a prototype of the Haghia Sophia.
This western Byzantine mosaic represents a picturesque image of how church and government are intertwined, and reflects the patron and artists ability to look at past classicism to gain understanding of the rule of the country. Moreover, this mosaic in particular is directly next to anyone who is standing beside it. Thus, it is a monumental image that towers over the viewer, which can be seen as a direct reference to Justinians bloody rule. For example, Justinian used his military force in order to restore the boundaries of the ancient Roman Empire. He stretched his force across the western Mediterranean during the 5th century.
In the mid-sixth century, the church had endured both fires and earthquakes. And, before the Ottoman Turks arrived, there was a period of restoration to the church that goes as follows: in 1204, the Haghia Sophia was sacked during the Fourth Crusade. During Michael VIIIs reign, an architect named Ruchas repaired the Haghia Sophia and buttresses were added to the southwestern side. In 1317, the northeast and south west walls were reinforced during the reign of . These were on the exterior next to pyramid-shaped buttresses. Then, in 1348 the eastern half of the dome collapsed and in the 15th century the church has been described to be in a state of disrepair. The Turks conquered Constaninople in 1453 and it was then converted into a mosque. Originally, the Turks left the frescos and mosaics of the Christian saints on the walls, but in the 16th century they were covered with plaster. Since the Islamic code did not want any figural representation in the church, they were covered. Other restorations took place as well, such as the mihrab, which is in the east since the apse needs to be placed in the direction of mecca. The brick minaret was placed in the south-east corner of the structure. Also, Mehmed II contributed a madrasa to the church or a religious school. In the late 15th and 16th centuries, Sultan Bayezid had a minaret added in the north-east corner. One of the most famous restorations to the church was completed from 1847-49. Abdulmecid II had Gaspare and Guiseppe Fossati, two Swiss architects, reconstructs the decoration on the exterior and the interior, as well as consolidated the dome and straightened the columns. Since the church had been made secularized, these brothers took part in restoring the Christian mosaics. Also, they added the Arabic roundels that remain that the front of the church today. Another example of outside cultural elements that have been brought to the Haghia Sophia can be seen through Mahmut Is contributions. One can see other aspects that other successful emperors have brought elements from other regions to the Haghia Sophia, such as the large marble jar that is located in the area. The origins of these marble jars come from Bergama (a province in western Turkey). Moreover, Mahmut I installed a library where he could either study the text for religious purposes or practical purposes in order to help the government thrive. This also could afford him a private office space.
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