Hagia Sophia as a Mosque
Chapter V here. Beginning here.
Please note that the spellings of places and names vary according to the source.
The Sultan Mohammed II triumphantly rode into Constantinople late in the afternoon. When he entered Hagia Sophia, he halted the ongoing destruction. He encountered a a soldier who was chipping out a section of the marble floor and struck him with his sword. The soldier was then thrown outside half-dead. Muhammed II permitted time for celebratory marauding and plundering, but this act definitely signaled an end to the barbarous revelry. The remaining Greeks hidden inside the Hagia Sophia, were permitted to depart in peace. After the pillaging, all remaining Byzantine citizens (not claimed for enemy service0, were granted conditional amnesty. They were required to become peaceful subjects of the new Ottoman Emperor.
Immediately Hagia Sophia was proclaimed a mosque and prayers were offered. Consecration prayers had been customary at Hagia Sophia. When it was constructed, then after each restoration or renovation. The Crusader King consecrated Hagia Sophia, invoking his cause, and now the Sultan did the same. "An ulama, or Islamic theologian, climbed to the ambo and recited a Muslim prayer, and Mohammed himself mounted the steps of the altar and did obeisance to Allah, the One God, who brought him great victory." He also changed the name of Constantinople to Istanbul- a Greek name which means "into the city".
Gennadius II was brought in to replace the Patriarch Gregory Mammas who fled before the invasion. It does not say why Mammas fled, however, it is interesting to note that Gennadius, was the leader of the anti-Union Byzantines (those who did not want to reunite with the Western Churches). In discussions, the anti-union faction were heard to say that it was better be under Muslim rule than reunite with Rome. Whether they actually preferred this or whether their “slogan” was heated, emotional rhetoric is open to interpretation. In the end, it became a moot point because the Ottomans did become their masters.
The West, by now, was focused on events occurring in other regions.
("How the Ottoman Empire Finally Ended the Byzantine Empire" - historical review link)
The Sultan Mohammed II “saw himself as heir to their [Byzantine] emperors and hence responsible for their welfare and that of the Orthodox Church”. He had a good relationship with the new Patriarch Gennadius and lavished him with gifts in exchange for his cooperation. Gennadius was assigned to The Church of the Holy Apostles. Later the Orthodox leadership took up residence at in a new location close to Phanar. The Church of the Holy Apostles was dismantled and the materials were then used to construct the conquerors own tomb in a Mosque known as the Mosque of Faith, the emperor's popular name.
The Ottoman Empire was very wealthy through conquest and they were able to begin a building program aimed at meeting their needs. They constructed hundreds of secular and religious buildings using Byzantine prototypes as their models. The excellence of the Hagia Sophia, however, was never surpassed.
A recognized sixteenth century architect, Sinan (the near contemporary of Michelangelo), was commissioned with the restoration (circa 1573) of the Hagia Sophia at the age of fifty. Sanin who was a Janissary (elite guard) by birth and rose up through the ranks of the military. Accounts of the Hagia Sophia project are detailed in this book. He reinforced the old structure, tore down the archaic buttresses and added two minarets. It was during this period that the mosaics in the tympana were covered up.
The author notes that mosaics in the apse and elsewhere were still visible in the eighteenth century- “saints, crosses and other symbols of the Christian religion “were represented. But “after the eighteenth century the remaining mosaics were systemically covered with a crust of lime wash, leaving only the headless seraphim in the pendentives.”
Additions to the Hagia Sophia mosque and the buildup of city surrounds are also chronicled. Here are two mentions:
The baptistery of Hagia Sophia was first used as an oil storage area and later converted to a tomb for the “lunatic Mustafa I and his seventeenth century nephew Sultan Ibrhim.” More mausoleums were added as time went on. Overall, the Ottomans were a combative, murderess clan and most members did not live to old age. For example, Sultan Mohammed III put his nineteen brothers to death “then celebrated their passing and that of their father, Murad III, with funeral rites of great pomp and solemnity.” At the same time, the city center became a cultural epicenter.
Theological schools were established and “the chair at Hagia Sophia became a distinction much coveted by Islamic scholars.” During this period, visitors remarked on the Hagia Sophia. One compared the mosque to those in Jerusalem, Damascus and Cairo, observing that “it is always full of holy men who pass the day there in fasting and night in prayer.” Except by edict, the Hagia was closed to non-Muslims.
By 1839 the Turkish government was open to the Westernization of Istanbul. When a childless Sheik willed a great sum of money ($1,500,000 BP in 1972 currency) for the repair of Hagia Sophia, the sultan commissioned a renowned Christian architect, Gaspare Fossatti, to make the needed updates and repairs over very vocal objections from the more reactionary elements within their society. Finally, in 1847, while reactionary Muslim elements were on pilgrimage to Mecca for Ramadan, Fossatti embarked on the restoration project under the supervision of the Sultan.
It is too long to detail but the success of this project was remarkable. There were critics too. Westerners did not like the way the huge Islamic placards ruined the architectural harmony (see Chapter one for photo). Below is one short stories on how the remaining mosaics remained intact although covered:
In the course of his restoration work, Frassatti discovered the massive mosaics underneath the whitewash. He wisely kept them veiled. After exposing a great section of them, he called in the Sultan. When the Sultan viewed the “vault all covered with gold...he is said to have exclaimed, ‘Wretched man, you have ruined me!’ When the Swiss architect explained that this was not his work but that of past generations, the sultan criticized his own forbearers for their concealment of such beautiful ornaments.” It was decided that they should be recovered because fear of defacement
or worse was a real threat. The Sultan, Abdul Medjid, “insisted that they be covered in such a way as to make them easy to uncover if ever the time became ripe.”
Large scaffoldings were installed up to the ceilings. Only two people died during this dangerous reconstruction and one was a Christian. A priest was secretly brought in to administer last rites- "probably the first prayers uttered in the mosque of Hagia Sophia."
Reconsecration of the Mosque took place on July 13, 1849.
Great earthquakes damaged the mosque in 1894. Many who were able to view the mosque prior to that time remarked at its beauty. One Englishman, Lord Carlisle, whimsically wrote, “It may not, however, be unattainable in the righteous providence of God, that when Christianity reestablishes her own domain here, it shall be with the blessed accompaniments of a finer ritual and more spiritual worship.” And of the muezzin's call he expressed “Yes; and how long shall that call continue?”
Next week. The Final Chapter 7: Hagia Sophia as a Museum.
CM Jentz 2014
Image 1 Mohammed II in an uncharacteristically benign pose. Note the imperial handkerchief- the mappulla (or whatever name is given depending on the language). It is symbolic for authority and was used to signal certain actions.
image 2 Alterations ordered by Mohammed II- was the partial removal of such Christian symbols outline. The removal of all Christian symbols was never completely accomplished since the premises was so large.
image 3 In the late 17th century a traveller sketched the Suleymaniye (right) in contrast to the Hagia Sophia on the left. The Suleymaniye is an example of the grandiose building projects undertaken which were influenced by Byzantine designs.
Image 4 In the Fossatti view, groups of muslim worshippers squat on prayer rugs beneath the hulking arches of the refurbished nave of Hagia Sophia- whose polished revetments, fresh plaster, and repainted stucco sparkle with renewed luster.
Notes, Art, Photography CMJENTZ ©2013-2018
My website template has been updated. NOTES pages might have font and pictorial placement discrepancies.
All content ©LumenChristiArt.com,
Christine M. (CM) Jentz.
For comments or inquiries please
contact me. Commissions accepted.
“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures.” (St. André Bessette)