In the previous post, you saw photographs of me and Reha in and around Hagia Sophia. In this and the next post, I will share with you some photographs that I took from the remarkable vantage point I enjoyed of this magnificent structure.
The restoration scaffolding is immense as you can see. It stands 55 meters, over 180-feet, tall. Our host, Erdinc told us that a crew who knows how to assemble it can move it to the next quadrant in 45 days. Once, it took an inexperienced crew over 3 months. The elevator took us to the 55-meter platform where I was able to touch the very center of the dome. The gold foiled medallion that hides the hanging gear of the immense center chandelier is made of wood and nailed to the ceiling. The calligraphy on the ceiling covers the original mosaic art.
Looking down and around makes it very clear that this is an immense structure built more than 1500 years ago. The ribs of the dome show signs of the numerous repairs it has seen, they do not follow a smooth curve. As you will clearly see in some of the photographs, the curvature has kinks in it. The warm color you see is partly due to the gold mosaics and paint reflecting light, and partly to the warm light, they use to illuminate the interior. I liked the feeling and did not attempt to correct the color, these photographs reflect what I saw and felt at that time. The scaffolding is shrouded in black netting to prevent items from falling down on the visitors. This makes photographing a bit difficult. However, Erdinc would cut a section of the netting for us to use as viewports. The netting does not run and it has a special needle and string that is used to mend the cut parts, much like the fishing nets.
I went down one platform using the stairs to get a better view of some of the lower parts of the building and to have a direct view of the huge abstract angels on either side. The frescos are done in a highly stylized, abstract manner, which I was told was remarkable for its time. The angel on the left has been repainted by the restoration crew last year and the one on the right awaits its turn.
After both Reha and I took enough photographs from these angles, we climbed to the top platform and proceeded to go outside. This took us down a small hatch through four steps to the circular balcony around the main dome. There I was able to see closely and touch the original Byzantine gold and silver mosaics. They shimmer in the light with a beautiful glow. Some parts have been restored using crude mosaics and paint, and the special painting technique used by Fossati brothers, Gaspare and Giuseppe, in the nineteenth century; and later by the Byzantine Institute. You can see a small section of Fossati restoration in my previous post.
While at the new vantage point, I also took a couple of photographs of the altar, which was not visible from the scaffolding or its various platforms. It too was awash in warm light. The large medallions with Ottoman calligraphy on them, which are also visible on a few other photographs here, are L-A-R-G-E! Each is over 24 feet in diameter. In the scale of this immense structure, one may mistake them for “wall hangings” which are taller than a two-story house.
Now, enjoy the close viewing of the Great Church.