"The Mosaics" Hagia Sophia - Ayia Sofia - Ayasofya Tip by nicolaitan

The exquisite mosaics of the Hagia Sophia were protected during the Islamic years by plaster, now restored for our appreciation. Here, a selection of the most famous mosaics.

Empress Zoe mosaic - image 1 - this mosaic features Christ Pantocrator, garbed in dark blue as is traditional in Byzantine art, giving a blessing with his right hand and holding the bible in his left. To his left, the powerful Empress Zoe and to his right, the third husband of the
Empress, Constantine IX Monomachus. The purse he holds recalls a recent contribution to the church. The previous husbands of the Empress at one time had their faces in the picture with the latest husband's head replacing his predecessors. This mosaic dates from the 11th C.

The Imperial Gate mosaic - image 2 - the central door to the sanctuary could only be used by the emperor and features a striking mosaic showing Christ on a jeweled throne. To his left the archangel Gabriel, to his right the Virgin Mary. The kneeling figure with the halo is believed to be Emperor Leo VI the Wise. The mosaic is believed to demonstrate the power given to the emperors by Christ. However, at least one reference implies that Leo is simply begging forgiveness for his four marriages.

The Deesis mosaic - image 3 - is considered one of the most important in the museum, dating from 1261 and created to mark the end of the Roman Catholic rule imposed by the Fourth Crusade and a return to Orthodox faith. The Virgin Mary and John the Baptist face Christ in less than full profile, and are believed to be praying for the salvation of humanity on the Judgement Day. Art experts feel that this mosaic marks the earliest phase of the Renaissance in Byzantine art because of the less harsh facial features and softer colors. The lower part of the mosaic has deteriorated - stated to be water damage.

The Apse mosaic - Virgin and Child - image 4 - is believed to be the first mosaic created after the iconoclastic period and a copy of an image destroyed a century earlier. The mosaic is high up in a dome and attracts a crowd of photographers who line up for a chance to twist and shoot. Mary is seated on a jewelled throne without a back with her feet on a stool. The golden backdrop is typical of pre-iconoclastic art.

The entrance mosaic - image 5 - was among the first discovered by the Fossati brothers in the 19th C restorations and again features Mother Mary on a jewelled backless throne with a pedestal for her feet. It dates to 944 and features on her left the Emperor Constantine presenting a model of the city and on her right Emperor Justinian with a model of the Hagia Sofia. The symbols above her head indicate "mother of god".

Address: Ayasofya Meydani, Sultanahmet
Phone: +90 212 522 1750
Website: http://www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/

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  • Updated Feb 8, 2009
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