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St. Sophia

By Lindsay Kuhlmann

Istanbul is clearly a city that has transformed over time. The transformation could easily be seen in the architecture of its ancient buildings. Unlike a newly formed global city, where all buildings are new skyscrapers, the buildings in Istanbul showed hints of its vernacular past.

The new urban dwellers Caglar Keyder talked about in “The Housing Market from Informal to Global” affected the architecture much like the Ottoman Empire. While the new urban dwellers built up the periphery of Istanbul and changed the face of the city, the new Muslim rule plastered the inside of St. Sophia to change its Christian face.

turkeySt. Sophia visually taught me the most about Istanbul’s history. From the outside one could see how it had been transformed into a mosque and from the inside one could see the Christian church. In his article Keyder described the development of the city of Istanbul. Originally the occupants of Istanbul were Christian but were pushed out with the coming of the Ottoman Empire and the Muslim religion. This explains the existence of St. Sophia in the first place and also its transformation.

angels St. Sophia was the biggest domed building in all of Europe for many years. The outside is grand but the inside is breathtaking. However most of the most interesting mosaics have been uncovered since the mosque/church was made into a museum. Under layers of plaster, gold, blue, and white tiles were found depicting biblical scenes. The four major pillars holding up the dome have enormous angels with equally impressive wings depicted on them. It was told to me that these angels were put there to make it look as though they were holding up the dome. Some of the mosaics have yet to be recovered from the plaster which reminds visitors that this was influenced by someone else. Along with the Christian depictions in the church there are Muslim signs. These signs are equally impressive and ancient.  

wallThrough visiting St. Sophia was able to see a great example of how urban dwellers within Istanbul have affected its architecture. With each wave of immigrants to the city the face of the city changes yet a peace of the past always remains. 

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