The rarely-seen mosaics of the Hagia Sophia

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,814
Blachernai
#1
I have little doubt that most of us have seen pictures of the spectacular golden mosaics in the Hagia Sophia that depict Alexandros I, John II Komnenos, his wife Eirene, their son Alexios, Zoe, Constantine IX Monomakhos, Gabriel, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Mary. If you have not seen them, check them out: Hagia Sophia - Wikimedia Commons However, there are other mosaics that are not visible to most visitors. Besides the rumors (and Fossati drawings) of a large John V Palaiologos mosaic still covered up near the apse, there is a set of mosaics in the rooms above the southwest ramp and vestibule. I do not have pictures of them all here, and there seems to be at least one large and fairly intact Pantokrator mosaic there that I cannot find a decent picture of. There are fragments all over, but this is all I could find in colour.

The rooms in question were likely built shortly after the construction of the cathedral, but after Justinian. Academic opinion (Cormack and Hawkins) believe that the rooms date to the later sixth century. They likely served as a sekreton (council hall) for the patriarchate, and seem to be sizable rooms. The mosaics date from later. A recent work has argued that the medallion with the cross (the last picture) dates from the reign of Constantine V. There were earlier mosaics present, although they appear to have been removed sometime earlier in the eighth century during iconoclasm. This is one of the (admittely few) cases where corroborating evidence actually reveals Theophanes to be correct, for he states that the patriarch Niketas removed the images in the "small sekreton of the patriarchate", which was likely this room.

I do not have solid dates for any of these, but they must be at least from the middle of the ninth century, for they almost certainly required an iconodoule patriarch. Additionally, the second figure portrayed is the Patriarch Nikephoros, which also suggests that the mosaics date after the end of iconoclasm, for not only would it have been extremely presumtuous for Nikephoros to put up a mosaic of himself while he was patriarch (806-815), he acquired a reputation of a remarkable iconodoule due to his excommunication at the synod of 815 that began Second Iconoclasm.

Running in order from top to bottom: Mary, Nikephoros I of Constantinople, Simon Zealotes, St. Constantine, medallions in the south tympanum.











 

Attachments

Dec 2009
11,340
Ozarkistan
#3
I'll be visiting the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul this September. My eager anticipation increases every day. That noble edifice -- and many others in Turkey -- I know will utterly overwhelm me. I'll be speechless.
 

Sankari

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
3,340
6th Century Constantinople
#4
corrocamino, you will be amazed. The Hagia Sophia is one of the world's most beautiful buildings. I visited it in 2007 and took some admittedly poor photos, which you can see here.

:)
 
Dec 2009
11,340
Ozarkistan
#5
corrocamino, you will be amazed. The Hagia Sophia is one of the world's most beautiful buildings. I visited it in 2007 and took some admittedly poor photos, which you can see here.

:)
Thanks! Those are great shots! With your kind permission, I might want to use one of your photos to create a personalized T-shirt for myself.

Can't wait to get to Constantinople! :)
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,814
Blachernai
#10
Great post. I've never seen these mosaics before. Are the erosions on the faces a product of time or zealous Turks?
A little bit of both, I believe. The room once had much larger windows, but I believe that the Turks removed them and strengthened the walls for (necessary) structural support. The mosaics were damaged both by the construction and centuries of neglect in a forgotten corner of the building.