The Hagia Sophia has many important things to view when you visit, many of which are often photographed. I thought I would share a few photos of lesser known aspects of this great museum. As it happens, all of them were taken in the women’s gallery.
This is what I call the leaning pillar of Hagia Sophia. This grand old church is showing her age, with the pillar leaning a little to the left. It is near the mosaics of Zoe and her husband, and of John II Comnenus and his wife.
These are the marble doors that separated the emperor’s private chambers from the churchmen’s meeting area. They appear to be carved to look like doors, but I don’t think they ever functioned like a door; more like a wall.
One of the chandeliers in the Hagia Sophia. About twelve years ago I visited a Byzantine exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which had one of these chandeliers on display. However, I suspect they are of more recent vintage than Byzantine times.
Near the marble doors is this slab with the name of Enrico Dandolo, the leader of the infamous Fourth Crusade that sacked Constantinople. There is no body here, and if there had been a body, I wonder why Dandolo would have chosen to be buried here. Recently I’ve been told of a legend that Mehmet II removed the body from under it (it would have lain there for over 200 years by that time). One of history’s mysteries why the slab would be here.
One of the seraphim gracing Hagia Sophia’s walls. Not the usual way angels are rendered in the west, but seraphim like this were common in the Byzantine churches we visited.
Finally, a view of one section of the women’s gallery. While the men were all down at the main level, the women had to climb a ramp up to the third floor of the Hagia Sophia for services (I assume the choirs were on the 2nd level, but am not sure). It was quite a climb, although I was told the empresses were carried by sedan chair. One thing I had not expected was how spacious the gallery was – it could easily hold the equivalent of three large churches. Most of the windows were there so it had plenty of light, probably more than the ground floor had.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of lesser known sites at the Hagia Sophia.