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Istanbul Mosques and Cathedrals

In 330 AD Constantinopolis (Istanbul) was proclaimed as the new capital of the Roman Empire.  The Hagia Sophia has an interesting history.   The current building is actually the third construction of a domed basilica, which was completed in 537 AD by Emperor Justinian.  
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The first cathedral had been built in 360 AD.   The name “Hagia Sophia” originated from the Greek, meaning “Holy Wisdom”.    It served as a Greek Orthodox church for over 900 years.   During those years, it was the largest and most impressive cathedral in the world.    In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered this church be converted into an Islamic mosque.  Most of the mosaics depicting Jesus, Mary, Christian saints and angels were removed or plastered over and four minarets were added.   For nearly 500 years, it was an Islamic mosque before being converted into a secularized museum in 1935.
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The walls and ceilings still have both Christian and Islamic mosaics.   A mosaic of Mary and baby Jesus stands between two Islamic verses.
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Another mosaic shows Emperor Leon VI (886 – 912) kneeling before Jesus seated on a throne, surrounded by Mary and the Archangel Gabriel.
Christian crosses can still be seen on the walls.
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Here is a huge marble jar that was carved from a single block of marble in the late 1500’s.
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From its initial conversion until the construction of the nearby larger Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque of Istanbul) in 1616, it was the principal mosque of Istanbul.   The Blue Mosque was named for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior
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There were great crowds of tourists wishing to visit the Blue Mosque.
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Before entering the Blue Mosque, shoes must be removed and carried in a plastic bag, and women must have their head and shoulders covered.
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During prayer times, women must pray in a separate enclosed area.
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The Blue Mosque has numerous stained glass windows.   The colored glass for the windows was a gift of the city of Venice to the sultan.
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We also visited the Kucuk Ayasofya (Little Hagia Sophia) Mosque, which was formerly the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.  This Byzantine building was erected in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian, and likely was a model for Hagia Sophia Cathedral.   It served as a Christian cathedral for nearly 1000 years, until 1505, when it was converted into an Islamic mosque.
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There were lots of rules to follow before entering.
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As with all active mosques, women must have their heads and shoulders covered before entering.
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The interior is a miniature version of the much larger Hagia Sophia.
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Ortaköy Mosque on the European side of the Bosporus Strait, which was built in 1854
28 201308_04 Bosphorus Tour-Ortaköy Mosque European side 1854

To see more pictures of our Turkey Travels, click on one of the links below:

Arrival in Istanbul, Travel to Bursa and Uludag
Istanbul Mosques and Cathedrals
Istanbul Palaces and Historic Sites
Streets of Istanbul
Ephesus Area
Pamukkale Area
Aspendos, Perge and Side
Antalya and Konya
Cappadocia – Day 1 Morning
Cappadocia – Day 1 Afternoon
Cappadocia – Day 2 Morning
Cappadocia – Day 2 Afternoon
Final Day in Istanbul


Istanbul Mosques