Uncommon sights at Hagia Sophia

the leaning pillar of Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia has many important things to view when you visit. I thought I would share a few photos of lesser known aspects of this great museum. As it happens, I took all of them in the women’s gallery.

The Leaning Column of the Hagia Sophia

the leaning pillar of Hagia Sophia

This is what I call the leaning column of Hagia Sophia. This grand old church is showing her age, with the pillar leaning a little to the left. Or maybe it was always flawed this way. It is near the mosaics of Zoe and her husband, and of John II Comnenus and his wife.

Marble Doors and the Chandeliers

marble doors that separated the emperor's private chambers from the churchmen's meeting area

These are the marble doors separating the emperor’s private chambers from the churchmen’s meeting area. They appear 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.

One of the chandeliers in the Hagia Sophia. Some 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.

Dastardly Enrico Dandolo

marble slab in the Hagia Sophia bearing the name of Enrico Dandolo

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 I can’t imagine Dandolo, who loathed the Byzantines, wanting his final resting place here. Recently I’ve heard 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.

Seraphim

One of the seraphim gracing Hagia Sophia's walls

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.

one section of the Hagia Sophia women's gallery

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 arrived 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. There were plenty of  windows on this level so it probably had more light than on the ground floor.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of lesser known sites at the Hagia Sophia.

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Eileen Stephenson

Eileen Stephenson

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