|Gorgeous Domes of the Blue Mosque|
|Aya Sofia at Sunset in Sultanahmet|
On the street, once mighty Byzantine churches -- built in some cases to demonstrate Christendom's mighty conquest -- were transformed by the Ottoman Empire into stunning mosques, testaments to cultural greatness of another sort.
The history isn't always sweet and gracious. The Emperor Justinian, for example, built his version of Hagia Sophia on the heels of a terrible massacre in the 6th century CE. It was his way of calming a restless city, an unhappy empire.
|Aya Sofia: Note the 9th c. Mosaic & "Allah" in Arabic|
There's a wild atmosphere here: thousands and thousands visiting from all over the world, the inevitable cacaphony of tourism and its beneficiaries. But the play of traditions, the resiliency of history, the Christian mosaics alongside Muslim script: it's a welcome relief from the high-pitched rhetoric in the West, particularly over the last 15 years. To see a 9th century fresco of Mary, almost side by side in Aya Sofia with huge Arabic scripts for Allah and Mohammed -- this seems like a sign of what should be, what will be, what may be even now. God is one.
The mosaics and frescoes are particularly delightful! In Aya Sofia, a guide pointed out that the Virgin and Christ Child in the apse is a 9th century work. As you see from the picture just above, it shines now alongside a 19th century medallion (in Arabic) of the word "Allah!"
|Virgin and Christ Child: 9th Century Mosaic|
|Saturday in the Park|
|Jesus: "Last Judgment"|
|"Last Judgment" - 13th Century Mosaic in Aya Sofia|