Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hagia Sophia and Topkapi

There are two places I am looking forward to the most this trip. I know we had talked about not all writing about the Hagia Sophia, but it is genuinely what I am looking forward to the most and the reason I wanted to go on this trip. The first is the reason I was initially interested in Istanbul in the first place – the Hagia Sophia. I took art history my senior year of high school, and we were learning about the Hagia Sophia around the same time as Fellows Weekend when they introduced the idea of this trip. The Hagia Sophia had originally been built as a church during the Byzantine period, but then was converted into a Mosque when the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453. 
The Sultans that ruled in the years that followed added on to the newly declared mosque, adding minarets and geometric designs. The Hagia Sophia was then converted into a Museum in 1935. In my Art History class the Hagia Sophia had been one of the buildings we discussed the most, so I had learned a lot about it. I got really excited that we would be going somewhere where I would be able to visit a beautiful architectural structure that I actually knew about. Now I can’t wait to see it in person!
            The second place I am really looking forward to is the Topkapi palace on January 12. It had been the home to Ottoman Sultans for 400 years before it became a museum. Not only is the palace itself a beautiful piece of history, but it also holds some of the most important Muslim relics, and many amazing pieces of Islamic art. Islamic art rarely portrays human faces, except in the most secular pieces, but instead uses geometric shapes and calligraphy to create their pieces. This gives the art that can be found in this palace and other museums in Istanbul a completely different quality than any of the art from other cultures. These art pieces are able to convey meaning and a sense of beauty without any faces. I’m really excited to see many of the pieces of art in the palace, such as the ivory belt pieces, engraved boxes and plates, mosaics and clothing.  

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