Thursday, September 13, 2018

If These Walls Could Talk

Right behind the Hagia Sophia, as soon as you have entered the grounds of the Topkapi Palace, you can see the beautiful Hagia Irene - or Aya Irini in Turkish - to your left. Often overseen in the shadow of its big famous sister it is a true gem.

One of the historical buildings in Istanbul it was the first church completed in Istanbul (then Constantinople), before the Hagia Sophia. However, the church we see nowadays is not the original building since it burned down in 532. The groundbreaking of the "modern" Hagia Irene was in the same year.  It's built with brick and stone in the Byzantine style and if you don't look closely it resembles its big sister a bit.

However, it lacks all the stunning interior decor of the Hagia Sophia. No mosaics, no tiles, no chandeliers. Just walls. But those walls are impressive.

Hagia Irene has always been a church. It never had to go through all the changes like Hagia Sophia - it never was converted into a mosque, but it no longer functions as a church. It is often overlooked, there are only a few people who go there and you have the place pretty much to yourself.

It hasn't always been like this. There used to be mosaics and frescoes and you can still see some of it.

However, I do like the bare walls. Just think how old they are! If these walls could talk, what would they tell us? They sure got their share of wars, prosperity and desperate times. But they're still here after almost 1500 years. Can you imagine our modern buildings still being here in 1500 years? I sure can't. We certainly don't build for eternity anymore.

Even though Hagia Irene is rather "bare" there is much to discover. It turned out to be my favorite historical building in Istanbul. Its simplicity holds a lot of fascination for me. It has a very special atmosphere - a bit mystical, a bit dark, a bit mysterious. A hidden gem.

Nowadays, Hagia Irene mainly serves as a concert hall for classical music performances because of its excellent acoustic and the unique atmosphere. I would have loved to listen to a concert here - I can just imagine the music rising up to the dome, sounding back from the walls, surrounding the breathless audience. What an experience this must be.

Oh, and of course it has some permanent residents here...

I could have stayed much longer within these walls. This is a place I go back to in my mind over and over again.


Elephant's Child said...

What an absolutely fascinating place. And in its simplicity, elegant and truly beautiful. I can see exactly why it won your heart.
Thank you.

My name is Erika. said...

Looks like you had a fabulous trip. Your photos are great.

Peace Thyme said...

The shame, to me, is that there are very few people in the world that would have the knowledge or skill to build places like this that would last for thousands of years. I love your pictures of the arches and of the doorway with the tree outside. May I try to paint that?

krishna said...

What an interesting place!! 1500 year!! and still standing.. amazing, just amazing..

Sarah Huizenga said...

This would be my favorite too, for the very same reasons. I love that simplicity! There is absolutely nothing we could build that would last now days. I think it is the simplicity of the light that draws me in here.

Jeanie said...

As always, your photographs are spectacular -- that light is such a gift and there is a peaceful, cool, somewhat eerie but in a good way feeling. You make me realize there is much to see in this world. I don't know if I'll ever see this in person, but I will feel as though I have thanks to these photos.

windrock studio said...

So much to love here ... all the gorgeous textures, the many beautiful windows and steps. I also love how to slipped the pretty dove in and the guy next to that awesome open door!

Red Rose Alley said...

These are awesome pictures, Carola. What an interesting place. There are too many good ones to call a favorite, but there's something about that first picture that got to me, and the sweet bird stole my heart. : )