Long-lost Mosaic Seraphim Uncovered at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia

Note: Below image is the Archangel Gabriel, not one of the newly uncovered images.

GabrielOfficial: Long-lost mosaic seraphim uncovered at Istanbul’s Haghia Sophia

SUZAN FRASER, Star Tribune

ANKARA, Turkey – Restoration workers have uncovered a well-preserved, long-hidden mosaic face of an angel at the former Byzantine cathedral of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, an official said Friday.

The seraphim figure — one of two located on the side of a dome — had been covered up along with the building’s other Christian mosaics shortly after Constantinople — the former name for Istanbul — fell to the Ottomans in 1453 and the cathedral was turned into a mosque.

The mosaics were plastered over according to Muslim custom that prohibits the representation of humans.

Some of the mosaics were revealed when the domed complex was turned into a museum in 1935, but the seraphim had largely remained covered, Ahmet Emre Bilgili, who heads culture and tourism affairs in Istanbul, told The Associated Press.

Two Swiss architects saw the two seraphim during restoration work ordered by the Sultan in the mid-19th century but the figures were covered up again, Bilgili said.

“It is the first time that the angel is being revealed,” he said, adding that the figure had been covered with metal and plaster. “It is very well preserved.”

Experts would now work to uncover the second seraphim, which was also plastered over and covered by metal, Bilgili said.

The newly uncovered image was hidden behind scaffolding and is not currently visible to visitors.

Haghia Sophia, also called the Church of Holy Wisdom, was built in 537 B.C. and remained a symbol of Byzantine grandeur until Istanbul was conquered by Muslim armies.

The structure was then turned into a mosque — minarets were added and crosses and other Christian symbols were defaced. It became one of the most renowned mosques of the expanding Ottoman Empire.

The site was later converted to a museum under the secular reforms of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

President Barack Obama toured Haghia Sophia when he visited Turkey in April, as did former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999. Pope Benedict XVI also strolled the site in 2006 of his pilgrimage of landmarks of Christianity’s ancient roots in Turkey.

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6 Responses to Long-lost Mosaic Seraphim Uncovered at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia

  1. Anastassios Konstantinidis says:

    This news feed has been tagged as Byzantine Catholic, Catholic, Catholic Church, etc. But it refers to a monument built by Greek Orthodox people and is related to Orthodox Christianity and Christian Orthodox history. Please make the necessary corrections. Thank you

  2. Nan says:

    That’s your opinion. And it’s very rude to tell me to change my tags, since they’re correct as far as my tradition is concerned. You’re free to post the information on your blog with whatever tags you favor. There was no such thing as a Greek Orthodox at the time Hagia Sophia was built; there was only one church, from which the Orthodox had not yet split.

  3. Oleksander says:

    Agree with Nan, from our perspective Catholics did build Hagia Sophia, same as how Catholics – not Anglicans – built Canterbury Cathedral.

  4. PRAXITELIS says:

    FIRST LET ME CONGRADULATE YOU FOR PUBLISHING THIS ARTICULE WHICH IS OF SUCH GREAT IMPORTANCE AND UNBELIVEABLE DIFFICUT TO FIND ON THE WEB. THESE MOSAICS WERE DONE AFTER THE CHURCHS HAD SPLIT AND DONE IN THE SECOND ROME WHICH WAS GREEK SPRAKING AND GREEK BORN ROMANS. THE WESTERN ROME WHICH FELL TO THE BARBARIANS IN THE FIFTH CENTURY, HOWEVER CONSTANTINOPLE WHICH FELL 1000 YEARS LATER TO THE TURKS REMAINED GREEK SPEAKING UP UNTIL THGAT TIME. YES WHEN ST SOPHIA WAS BUILT THERE WAS ONE CHURCH AND THE LATINS HAVE A RIGHT TO SAY PROUDLY THAT IT WAS PART OF THEIR HISTORY, BUT PART OF THEIR FORGOTTEN GREEK TIES. IN 1900 CONSTANTINOPLE (WHICH IT HAD BEEN CALLED UP UNTIL THE 1930-40′S) WAS 50% CHRISTIAN COMPOSED MOSTLY OF ARMENIANS AND GREEKS. UNFORTUNTLY DUE TO ETHNIC CLEANSING THERE ARE LEFT A HANDFUL OF PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS AND JEWS LEFT.

  5. Joel says:

    Even before the churches split the Greeks would “purify” the alters after allowing the Latin priests to celebrate the western rite in the eastern church buildings so we can say the Greek Church split spiritually long before she split canonicly.

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