Mosques of Istanbul
The two great mosques of Sultanahmet - the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia - were both very impressive. We have chosen to focus on two much smaller mosques which we found to be especially meaningful to us. Many of the mosques were once churches and were converted and added to over tme.
The first discovery was made by Sue and Wayne. It is the Chora Church in Western Istanbul. It was on Sue's "must see list" and she was not disappointed. They took a ferry to a little visited part of Istanbul to see this church. They walked up hill for one kilometer, but it was worth every step. Built in the late 11th century, and added on to over the years, this church has the most amazing mosaics and frescoes. The mosiacs date back to the 14th century and were funded by a poet by the name of Theodore Metochites. The mosaic below shows Theodore offering the church to Christ.
It is an exquisitely beautiful church. Because it is on a smaller scale, it feels more intimate and spirituality is more easily accessed. The ceiling shot below, gives a sense of the fine mosiacs. It's hard to believe that this church was once converted to a mosque - today it is a museum.
One of the mosaics that was especially touching was the one of Jesus holding a baby which is a representation of Mary's soul.
Now, fast forward and imagine yourself in an open air, crowded market street on the shore of the Bosphorus. The market products were all local domestic goods such as: brooms, handmade wooden spoons and other cleaning supplies.
What we are trying to say is that this was not a very touristy area; rather it was a place where the local Turkish people did their shopping. The street was crowded and narrow and bustling with activity. We were in search of the Rustem Pasa mosque but were distracted by all of the activity around us and could not quite figure how a mosque could be found in this setting. Then Brad spotted an old wall, with a small doorway and worn stone stairs. Could this be the place?
We decided to give it a try and low and behold it opened into a beautiful, quiet, intimate courtyard - peace found amongst the bustling city below us.
We drank in the atmosphere, slowly making our way to the entrance. A lovely man stood at the door way and told we were welcome to come in to the mosque, but we only had 5 minutes as the prayer service was about to start. So we donned our scarves, removed our shoes and entered through the side door.
The first thing we noticed was the Imam sitting at the front, singing in a very beautiful baritone voice. Look close, he's hard to see in this photo but we couldn't use a flash.
Other mosques we had been in were silent. Sue describes a feeling of being "hugged" by this mosque. It is small and decorated in the most exquisite Iznik tiles, most dating back hundreds of years to the Ottoman times. We stayed the full alotted time and left feeling blessed that we had this opportunity.
Others had arrived and were not allowed to enter - we felt so fortunate that our timing had been so perfect. We could have easily walked right past that little doorway on the crowded street and missed this experience all together. Good work Detective Brad!
Sue and Heather