Monday, July 8, 2013

AN ARCHITECTURAL FEAT: The Aya Sofya transcends TIME and exalts the SPIRIT!

TIMELESSNESS EXPRESSED IN ARCHITECTURE. Some times we can experience how small we are in the vastness of time and space. Yet, at the same time, we might feel part of this infinity of BEING. Here I am (right front dressed in white), looking up at the light coming in from the windows and at the construction maintaining this ancient holy place that now functions as a museum. (photo by Tony Martin)
Hallelujah for monuments that exalt the SPIRIT and withstand TIME! Hallelujah for the Aya Sofya in Instanbul, Turkey! Dear FELLOW PILGRIMS, I am writing you from the Ibis Hotel in Amsterdam, overnighting on a layover before returning home to Atlanta from Constantinople!

Architecture can tell you so much about a culture! I find myself amused at being in this mega Dutch complex, only an airport hotel, but more like a tiny city. Ibis houses two restaurants, a bar, cafe, and shops. The desk from which I'm sitting and looking out the window at rabbits on the manicured lawn, is modular, just like the bed, closest, and bathroom--all snapped into place. This is transitory housing for the roving hoards. The check-in clerk is more like an activity adviser consulting travelers about their "consumer" interests before "placing" them into a room for the night! In July 2013, we have constructed TEMPORARY architectural structures!
SUMMER NIGHT IN FRONT OF AYA SOFYA. Architectural feats like the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya are magnets, attracting everyone visiting Istanbul to their interiors and exteriors. It is fascinating to sit on one of the numerous benches on a summer night in front of the Blue Mosque and watch all the visitors lingering in the presence of these awesome structures. (photo by Tony Martin)
And the Aya Sofya? It endures! Can you believe that this magnificent structure was completed in 537 and has endured in various forms until now, more than 14 centuries later! How? The sublime marriage of SPIRIT and ART! 

When I studied about the Aya Sofya as a primary school student in the 1960's, we learned the Greek name of the church, "Haghia Sofia," and that it meant "Church of Divine Wisdom" in English. And the DIVINITY that has been worshiped here has changed over the centuries.

Aya Sofya was built as a Christian church in the 6th century and according to my trusty Lonely Planet travel guide, it was the "greatest church in Christendom" until the middle of the 15th century.
CENTURIES OF CELEBRATING THE SPIRIT. Built as an architectural wonder in the 6th century to worship Christ, Aya Sofya became a Muslim mosque after the Conquest in 1453. An ecstatic dissonance occurs when viewing the merging of these two religions in this architectural space. (photo by Tony Martin)

ALWAYS BEING RENOVATED. Ancient structures require constant upkeep. TIME is present in the Aya Sofya. And I felt how EPHEMERAL our human life is. (photo by Tony Martin)
The Aya Sofya underwent a significant transformation after the conquest. Mehmet the Conqueror turned the Christian church into a place to worship Islam. The Aya Sofya was a mosque until Ataturk made it a museum, which it remains today. 


UNCOVERED CHRISTIAN MURALS. During the time that Aya Sofya was a mosque, the Christian imagery was plastered over. Restorations have uncovered some of them.
As with many ancient buildings in Istanbul, Aya Sofya has gone through many incarnations. If I understood it correctly, the Aya Sofya has burned down twice in its history. In addition to the scaffolding and ongoing structural repairs, my geologist husband, Tony Martin, alerted me to the "faux" building stones. Because of the splendor of the mosaics, light, Arabic prayers, and throngs of visitors, recognizing that these "building stones" were in fact artificial would not be something the average person would notice.
FAUX BUILDING STONES.  Notice the regularity of the patterning on the slabs of "stones" in this photo? They are paintings.
WHAT IS REAL? WHAT IS ILLUSION? And how does ART play a role in creating a NEW reality through ILLUSION? In the image directly below, you can observe "real" building stones. I marvel at the attention that was given to designing the walls with alternating patterns from authentic stone slabs. It is difficult to fathom the minds of the ARTISTS who constructed these intricately patterned walls!
AWESOMENESS! There I am, Hallelujah Truth, dwarfed by the immensity of the ARCHITECTURE! To my left is a faux arch and more faux stone. Who would notice it in this MARVELOUS structure?
That's Coffee With Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me what you think of these images from the Aya Sofya! Of TIMELESSNESS and INFINITY. How ART can MAGNIFY us all as individuals and humanity. Have you been there? If not! What then?
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Deep thanks to my husband, who I fondly call Chiboogamoo. He is a superior and loving travel companion. If possible find one like him to take with you everywhere. I feel loved and supported by this man whether it be in the Aya Sofya, on a field trip in Canakkale looking at trace fossils, or in an airport hotel in Amsterdam. Chiboogamoo, aka Tony Martin, is pictured above. Many thanks to the kindness and generosity of the Turkish people we met on our journey. We felt welcomed by the people of Turkey and will want to return in the future. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

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