I have been reading about and seeing images of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul since I was in high school. Every art history course I have ever taken has made reference to the building. I knew it was built in 537 AD and that its central dome is a remarkable feat of architectural engineering. I knew that it had been first a Christian church then an Islamic Mosque and was now a museum.
When I finally made it to Istanbul I approached the building feeling quite blasé. I was sure I knew what to expect. What I discovered when I stepped inside took me by surprise.
Immediately I was immersed in a dusty, shadowy world redolent with twenty centuries of religious history in the middle east. Being inside the building was like being inside some repository, brain or nerve centre that pulsated with the weight of history.
People of many faiths and/or none flocked together beneath that vast dome without any animosity.
Wandering around trying to make sense of it all I came across an exhibition of historic Islamic calligraphy framed behind glass. It was beautiful and I took many photos. My favourite is this one where a window is reflected in the glass. Like Leonard Cohen sung
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in