It is our first full day in Istanbul, a city rich in religious history. We visited the Hagia Sophia, the church of the Divine Wisdom built during AD 537 and then converted to a mosque in 1453. In 1934 it was proclaimed a museum and is being restored with gorgeous mosaics of Christ and Mary that were boarded over during its time when it served as a mosque.
We walked across the park to Sultan Ahmed Mosque (popularly known as the Blue Mosque) which was completed in 1616. Beautiful blue Iznik Tiles line the walls and we learned of the washing rituals that all men and women maintain prior to entering the mosque for their time of prayer five times each day.
We ended the afternoon at Topkapi Palace which was the residence of the sultans for almost three centuries. The photo above is the Hagia Irene (Holy Peace) which was erected by the Emperor Constantinople in AD 360. For six months in AD 381, the First Council of Constantinople was held which confirmed the Nicene Creed and debated the divinity of the Holy Spirit. It is the only Byzantine cathedral in Istanbul that has retained its original atrium and is one of the few religious buildings in Istanbul that has never been used as a mosque. After the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453, the church was used by Sultans to store weapons for the palace guards, (the Janissaires) and has been used as a museum since the 18th-century.
The Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene stand as testimonies to the importance of religious communities in the early Christian church, and the choice of conquerors to either honor religious diversity or to destroy it.
Blessings, my friend,