RELIGIOUS HIGHLIGHTS OF TURKEY
Hagia Sophia Church is one of the most extraordinary buildings in the history of architecture and from the Golden Age of Byzantium. It played such an important role in Byzantine Empire as well as in Ottoman Empire as a mosque.
The word "Hagia" in Greek means "Divine" and "Sophia" means "Wisdom". "Divine Wisdom" is one of the attributes of Jesus Christ and this church is devoted to his divine wisdom. The Church of Hagia Irene was another church which was also devoted to "peace" attribute of Jesus Christ. The church was first completed in 360 during the reign of Constantinus. It was called as "Megala Ekklessia", the Great Church. This church was burnt in 404 during a revolt. A new church was built in the same place, by emperor Theodosius on Oct,405. It was also destroyed in a fire. The third and the last church was completed in 537 by Emperor Justinian I. It was completed only in 5 years. Emperor Justinian I was a very strong believer of Christianity and he wanted to use the church as a means for enlarging the scope of Christianity. This church served as the heart of the empire, all coronation and major baptism ceremonies took place here. When Turks conquered Istanbul in 1453, the first thing Mehmed "the Conqueror" did was to order the conversion of the church into a mosque. Because Prophet Mohammad had said that the army who conquered Istanbul would have Allah's Grace. From then on, the Church served as a great mosque, with four minarets added in different periods. The mosaics on the walls were covered with plaster because they were forbidden in Islam. Actually this helped the preservation of the mosaics and frescoes. The mosque was carpeted and the pulpit was put on the southern part of the church. Hagia Sophia served as a mosque until Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered the conversion of the mosque into a museum. He believed that it was a world heritage and people could come and see it. Therefore, in 1929, the plasters started to be removed and in 1940s, it was reopened as a museum.
While approaching the church from Blue Mosque, one gets impressed by the red big building with a splendid dome. The building is huge and vast. When entered through the main gate, one passes through two different narthexes (entrance). In the second entry hall (endonarthex), there's a big bronze gate which is from the reign of Justinian I. This was the main imperial gate to the church which was only reserved for the emperor's passage. Right above the gate, there's a mosaic which is from 9th C. Jesus Christ is in the middle, on the right hand side is Angel Gabriel and on left is Blessed Virgin. The depiction of Emperor Leo VI is also in the mosaic. The ceiling is reveted with floral mosaics. On the left end of the endonarthex, there's the ramp leading to the galleries on the second floor.
The interior of the church is vast. The building is covered with a big central dome which is 56 m., 150 feet high, 33 m.,72 feet in diameter. The dome was decorated with Arabic calligraphic writings during the Ottoman Era. The building is strengthened with columns in green and purple color. Purple (porphyry) was the sacred color of the Byzantium. The emperors were born to purple color fabrics, used this color in their costumes and buried in purple color fabrics. Upon walking into the church, one sees a square which was "Coronation Square" of the Byzantium Emperors. All of the Byzantine Emperors were coroneted in Hagia Sophia Church. On the right wing of the church, there's the "Library of Mahmud I", which is an Ottoman Era addition(1739). The nave of the church is beautiful, it was facing east when it was an orthodox church. After the conversion of the church into a mosque, the nave was decorated with big candlesticks and stain-colored glass. There is a pulpit on the left of the nave. This pulpit is no way comparable to the ones in original mosques but it was a later addition as well. Above ,on the left of the nave there's the "Lodge of the sultan" which was designed as a secret lodge for prayer ceremonies of the Ottoman Sultans. This is a work of Italian Fossati Brothers who came to restore the Church in the 19th century and built many additions to the church. The mosaic on the apse is splendid...It's the depiction of Blessed Virgin and Jesus Christ and this mosaic is from the 9th C. It's completely original.
To reach the galleries on the second floor, one climbs a ramp which is very impressive . There are three splendid mosaics here on this section. The first one is located in the southeast of the main church. It depicts the judgment day of the world, "the Deesis", Jesus Christ is in the middle, on the left is John the Baptist, on the right is Blessed Virgin. This mosaic is spectacular because the pieces used for the mosaic is quite little and this made the mosaic look like a picture. Even the cheek color or the wrinkles of John the Baptist is easily recognized. The other two mosaics are located in the eastern end of the Church. The one on the left depicts Emperor Monomachos IX with his wife, Zoe. Jesus Christ is in the middle. The one on the right depicts Empress Irene and Emperor Komnenos II with Blessed Virgin and Jesus Christ on her nap. As one walks to the very left end of the church, can come close to the beautiful mosaic on the apse which Blessed Virgin and child Jesus Christ.
When Sultan Mehmed II captured Constantinople in 1453, he found the palaces of the Byzantine Emperors in such ruins as to be uninhabitable. He chose a large area on the broad peak of the Third Hill as the site of his first imperial residence. He constructed a great complex of buildings and gardens here and they came to be known as "Eski Saray" which means "The Old Palace". A few years later, he decided to have his palace on the N side of the First Hill which had been the acropolis of the ancient Byzantium. He constructed a massive wall surrounding the area along the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. This took place during the period 1459-65 after the Sultan left the former palace to women of his father's harem. The Harem in Topkapi Palace in its present state dates back to the reign of Murat III(1574-95), Mehmed IV(1648-87) and Osman III(1754-57).
Topkapi Palace was more than just the private residence of the Sultan and his court. It was the seat of the supreme executive and judiciary council, the Divan and the training school, the Palace School. In the First Courtyard, there were a hospital, bakery,arsenal, a state mint, a part of the treasury and the Outer Service. It was open to public. The Second Courtyard was open to people who had business with the council. The Third Courtyard was reserved to the Sultan's household and palace children. The Fourth Courtyard was exclusively reserved for the Sultan's use.
Topkapi Palace continued to be the principal residence for four centuries until in 1853, Sultan Abdul Mecid I moved into the new palace of Dolmabahce on the Bosphorus. The old palace was used as house for the women of the departed sultans and their servants until the Harem was officially disbanded in 1909. In 1924, Topkapi Palace was converted to a museum with the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The final step was the opening of the Harem to the public in 1960.
Eyüp Sultan Mosque
Eyup Sultan Mosque was the first mosque built after the Turks conquered Constantinople. One of the first Muslims and a standard bearer of Mohammed, Ebu Eyup El-Sari was killed in the Arabic siege in the year 668 AC. His grave was discovered during the conquest and later the mausoleum and the mosque were built on this site.The mosque has been dedicated to the memory of Eyüp El-Sari.
Eyül Sultan Mosque is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims, but also for anyone who wants to enjoy a marvellous view of the Old City and the Golden Horn. Because of its sacred and historical importance, many imperial princes and Ottoman officials desired to be buried in Eyüp.
The original mosque was destroyed in an earthquake and the present one was constructed in its place in 1800. However, the real attraction always remained in here, the cemetery, a sacred burial site that draws masses of pilgrims waiting to stand in the presence of the solid silver sarcophagus or meditate in prayer. The interior decoration is magnificent with gold leafed decorations, elegant chandeliers hanging from the dome, and carpets covering the floor. The walls of the mausoleum in the courtyard are covered with tiles from different periods.
Historical writings indicate that the district was also a holy site n Byzantine times where people came to visit the grave of a saint and to pray for rain during times of drought…
Holy Saviour of Chora
Near the Byzantine city walls, The Church of the Holy Savior in Chora is the most interesting Byzantine church in Istanbul with sapper facade and high drum little domes. The churches houses best Byzantine frescoes and mosaics. The mosaics and frescoes are by far the most extensive collection of Byzantine paintings in Istanbul and among the best and most beautiful in the world
Originally built in the 4th century as the 'Church of the Holy Savior Outside the Walls', the building you see today was built in the late 11th Century with lots of repairs and restructuring in the following centuries. All of the interior decoration, famous mosaics and mural paintings date back to 12th Century. The frescos generally refer to the theme of death and resurrection.
For 4th Centuries after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul, it served as a mosque and today it’s open to visitors as a museum.
The House of Virgin Mary
The belief that Virgin Mary had spent her last days in the vicinity of Ephesus and that she had died there, focused attention on a nun named Anna Katherina Emmerich who lived in the late 18th century.
The efforts to find the house where she lived in, were greatly influenced by her detailed description of Virgin Mary's coming to Ephesus, her life and the characteristics of the city.
Located on the top of the "Bulbul" mountain 9 km ahead of Ephesus, The House of Virgin Mary enjoys an amazing atmosphere hidden in the green. Visited by thousands of tourists each year, this place of pilgrimage is still a holy place for the Moslims as well as for the Christian world. People who believe in the godly qualities of the Virgin Mary, come here and drinks from the water believed to be sacred and they make wishes in the mystic and quite atmosphere of the area.
It is believed by many that Virgin Mary may have come in the area together with St. John, who spent several years in the area to spread Christianity. Paul VI was the first pope to visit this place in the 1960's. Later, in the 1980's, during his visit, Pope John-Paul II declared the Shrine of Virgin Mary as a pilgrimage place for Christians. The site is also visited by Muslims who recognize Virgin Mary as the mother of one of their prophets. Each year on August 15th, a ceremony is organized in the area to commemorate Mary's Assumption.
The House of Virgin Mary is a typical Roman architectural example, entirely made of stones. In the 4th century AD, a church combining her house and her grave, has been built. Today, the building looks more like a church than a house. At the exit of the church area, you can see a source of fountain which called the “Water of Mary” and believed to have curative effect.
Pool of a Sacred Fish
“O fire! Be cool and become peace for Abraham” Quran. The birth place of Abraham where he had tried to kill by King Nimrod as throwing him into furnace and with God’s will, fire turned into water and wood pieces become carps.
Konya & Mevlana Celalettin Rumi
“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving, it doesn't matter…”
A unique Turkish city which has irrigated gardens, several mosques, and the Monastery of the Mawlawiyah of whirling dervishes, Konya city was also the home of the famous Sufi mystic philosopher Mevlana.
Under the Persian empire, Konya was the frontier city of Phryra. It was also the capital of the Sultanate of Rum established in the 12th and 13th Centuries by the Seljuks. And then, it was one of the main cities with a commercial and cultural power during The Ottoman Empire. However, despite the rich imperial heritage of the city, Konya is today mostly identified with Mevlâna Celâleddin-i Rûmî and his traditions which have impressed many philosophies all over the world.
Mevlâna is a 13th century Muslim saint and Anatolian mystic known throughout the world for his exquisite poems and words of wisdom which have been translated into many languages. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love. To him all religions were more or less truth. His peaceful and tolerant teachings have appealed to all sects and creeds.
Following Mevlâna’s death, his son and followers founded Mawlawiyah Sufi Order, a type of Sufism, also known as the order of the Whirling Dervishes. The 'dance' of the Whirling Dervishes is called Sema and is a part of Mevlana tradition as the worshiping method of dervishes which are devoted themselves to the God. It has become a part of Turkish customs, history, beliefs and culture.
Sema represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to "Perfect". It symbolizes the different meanings of a mystic cycle to perfection, coming from the Earth and return to it and encompassing all creatures without discrimination of believes, races, classes and nations.
Being a place of pilgrimage in the past, today Mevlana Mauseloum is a museum and visited by thousands of visitors each year. Whirling dervishes perform their ritual structured whirling dances on the day he died. The green dome of Mevlana houses the remains of Mevlana and his successors. The hall of the dervishes and the mosque were both rebuilt in the 16th century by Suleyman the Magnificent.
The United Nations declared 2007 as The Year of Rumi and celebrations were held world wide.