Hagia Sophia’s angel uncovered after 160 years…!

Inside of Hagia Sophia

A face of seraphim, which is one of the angel mosaics within Hagia Sophia, has been uncovered after 160 years.

In A.D. 537, Byzantine emperor Justinian built Hogia Sohpia as a basilica in Istanbul. However, when Ottoman Turks defeated and occupied Constantinople in 1453, the Ottomans covered crosses and the other Christian symbols up, and used the building as a mouque. During that time, this six-winged angel was covered with several layers of plaster and a metal mask because it represents a seraphim, an angel  which appears in the biblical book of Isaiah. The last person who saw the mosaic, after then, was a Swiss architect Gaspare Fossati who managed the restoration at Hagia Sophia in 1840s. Since 1934 when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk converted Hogia sophia into a museum, many people has been visiting the site to see its grandeur.  Now, the newly uncovered seraphim is not available to visitors, but according to the experts, the mosaic has been so well preserved.

Six-winged seraphim figure

It is interesting that the Ottomans didn’t remove the mosaics completely and just covered them up with plaster because it seems like the mosaics were fated to be revealed somehow later when religious or cultural transition takes place again. Also, the church of Hagia Sophia is very interesting place in a sense that it carries different characteristics of two cultures, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, simultaneously.


Uncovered face of angel





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3 Responses to Hagia Sophia’s angel uncovered after 160 years…!

  1. malooney says:

    I agree that it somehow seems like these mosaics were meant to be uncovered at some point in the future. This blog makes a good point in saying that it seems like fate. And while having the church converted to a mosque (after the Ottoman Turks conquered it) may have been difficult for Christians, the covering up of the mosaics was a good way of preserving them. If they had been exposed for the past 160 years, they probably would have been in worse condition. In a way the conversion of the church into a mosque was beneficial for modern-day tourists and experts because it did do such a good job of preserving the mosaics.

  2. afhowarth says:

    I find the process of covering or even destroying artworks of other religions to be fascinating. In this case, it seems like the Ottomans went through great trouble to cover this angel, yet it is so interesting that they didn’t just destroy it. Perhaps the Ottomans had some semblance of respect for the history of the Church of Hagia Sophia as it endured so many shifts in religion and possession. Imagine how many more of these priceless artifacts we would have if more cultures simply covered old pieces instead of destroying them.

  3. nsivakumar says:

    Hagia Sophia is a really unique place with two different cultures having used the space for religious purposes. I read online that the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque was really important to the Sultan, because it was prophesied by Mohammed that the first Muslim to pray in there would be able to go to paradise. I do find it interesting though that the Ottomon’s chose to cover up the mosaic rather than destroy it completely. Fortunately for us, they did that or else we may not have been able to know much about the byzantine images and art at Hagia Sophia.


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