My recollection of western civilization was dim at best before this trip and I certainly have had a refresher course here at the end of the silk route in Nova Roma. The Hagia Sophia, the home of the Eastern Roman Empire from 400 AD until the Byzantium fell to the Ottomans a thousand years later, was our first stop of the day. As we stood on the road outside, I understood for the first time the expression, “All roads lead to Rome.”
Until the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, this was the largest church in the world. For 900 years from 537 to 1453 it was the center of Orthodox Christianity.
Marble walls of the Hagia
This magnificent building then became the Grand Mosque of the Sultans. The frescoes and mosaics of the saints were covered in plaster to comply with Islamic tradition forbidding the visual representation of gods. This saved many of these works of art. In 1935 when the building was converted into a museum, the plaster was pulled away to show images that had not seen the light for 400 years.