Although Hagia Sophia made me cry the first time I saw it in person from the outside, we didn’t actually go inside the structure for a couple days. Pretty unusually for us, we had actually booked a tour to see the interior. When living in Rome in the past my dear companion worked for Context Tours, a company that makes every effort to tour sustainably and only hires guides with advanced degrees in the subjects they’re talking about, which I find to be admirable. (I have met many, many, many tour guides in Rome and MOST of them have NO IDEA what they are talking about and frequently give their tours COMPLETELY INCORRECT information. My classic example of this: when I was going through the Sistine Chapel one of the first summers I lived in Rome I heard a guide telling her MASSIVE tour group that Michelangelo died painting the ceiling and that his son finished it for him. That is APPALLINGLY incorrect. 1. Michelangelo lived for more that 50+ years after he finished the ceiling, and created many, many more artworks including the frescoes on the altar wall in the same chapel and 2. If Michelangelo had a son the historical record is not aware of him. Man, just thinking about that makes me cranky). But I digress. BACK TO THE ARCHITECTURE BABY!
Anyways, all of the Context Guides I have met (many of whom were fellow grad students living in Rome), have been well informed, articulate, and passionate about their subjects. So, though out of the norm for us we decided to get a tour by Context of the Hagia Sophia. If I’m honest, this would normally not be in our budget, Context provides an excellent service, so they charge accordingly. But since my dear companion was a docent emeritus, we were fortunate to get a discount on the tour price. So! We waited until the third day of our Istanbul trip to see the inside of Hagia Sophia.
True facts: in the pursuit of my PhD I taught a lot of intro art history classes, which almost always included the Hagia Sophia, which meant that almost nothing in the tour was news to me, but it was still a very good tour. And in contrast to the free city tour I took in Lisbon (a contrast which I’m going to explore more in-depth in my next post), this thing was rock-star solid. But let’s just savor these photos! Because if the outside can bring me to tears, the inside made me weak in the knees! Oh centrally planned architecture, be still my heart!