Demons in the marble

Istanbul is an amazing city. I thoroughly loved it (you may have heard me say that before).  My favorite “site of interest” was the Hagia Sophia.  It was originally built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and served as an Orthodox cathedral from  537-1453.  In 1453 it was converted into a mosque and served the Muslim community until 1931.  In 1935 it was secularized and has functioned as a museum since.

It’s a fascinating patchwork of stone and pattern.  Old motifs being covered by new when its function shifted.  Precious stone, columns and architectural features were plundered from other great sites around the world and brought to Istanbul for its creation.  Stone plays a pivotal role in its design and massive panels cover many of the interior walls.

At one point our guide stopped in front of a huge marble panel and asked us to describe what we saw.  I laughed and responded, “Some sort of alien. Or demon.”  She smiled and said, “Yes, a demon.”  She then proceeded to tell us that the designers of the original cathedral had purposely chosen large slabs of marble with patterns that resembled  images of demonic entities.  The purpose: to remind people that evil was only a stones throw away and that you had to stay ever prayerful and vigilant.  Genius!  As we toured the city we discovered similar marble panels in other churches.  My next trip to Istanbul will most certainly involve documenting the stony-faced demons that inhabit the city…


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