Below them, though, are photos of some of the other sights. Mostly I didn't take pictures. I figured there were better photographs in books and online, and for the most part the things I wanted to photograph were too high or too far away or not really accessible or too large for the lens I had. Also, I spent the first hour or so looking up with my mouth hanging open because the place was so amazing, so I doubt I'd have been capable of taking photos. My second hour there, or some part of a second hour, I recovered a bit and took these few pictures. Some are, as you will see below, photos of photos.
There is scaffolding in Haghia Sophia. There is almost always scaffolding there. It's an old building and an architectural miracle, so something always needs repair or threatens to collapse unless it's held up by something.
By clicking the links above, you will see photos that give you a little sense of the vast space. With my camera, I only took close-ups. Haghia Sophia is even bigger than you can imagine. The Byzantines never built anything close to that size again.
I've already posted a photo of the tile below, but I want you to get a sense of sequence in which I saw and photographed.
Many kinds of marble were shipped here to make the walls. (Remember, this is back in the 6th century, so we're not talking freight trains.) This was just one among many of the marble slabs, though one of the most beautiful.
I went upstairs after this. To get to the second floor, you walk up a corridor that winds around and still has what looks like the original pavement and walls.
I kept imagining, both on the bottom floor and as I walked up this corridor, what liturgy must have been like here. The robes, the incense, the processions.
All men, of course.
The Empress and her ladies sat upstairs, in a special gallery with a balcony.
I imagined what it might have been like to walk to the upper floor in this very corridor, on these very stones.
That's not a dead end. The corridor turns left when you get to that wall in front of you.
In one of the upper galeries was a photo exhibit. This isn't as ridiculous as it sounds. The upper walls of Haghia Sophia have magnificent mosaics (icons made of mosaic really), but you can't see them up close. With the help of some sort of fabulous photographic technology and maybe some scaffolding, a photographer whose name I don't have handy made this set of pictures of the mosaics. The curators then put them up in light glass or plexiglas frames so that they would have the real thing just behind them and you could thus get the best possible perspective on the mosaics. So I took photos of the photos.
This here is the Theotokos with Emperor John II Comnenus and Empress Irene, his wife. (There was more than one royal Irene in Byzantium. This is not Irene the Icon Queen --not her real title-- who lived many centuries before.) The mosaic dates from the early 12th century.
Then we've got someone who looks like John the Baptizer, but I must check. Sorry for the flash, but it was dark dark dark in there.
And here again is Herself.
After the fall of Byzantium in 1453, Haghia Sofia became a mosque, so it has minarets, and this is a view of one of them from the outside yard.
An ablution fountain, which I have mentioned before, is outdoors. It is not used since this place is now a museum, but it was for the use of the worshippers at the mosque, and there are many like it, though much less ornate, around town in other mosque courtyards.
And then there was a not too happy looking cat in a corner, outside either Haghia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. It looks cold to me. It was a grey rainy day. The cat inside Haghia Sophia was happier, sheltered under the great vaults and clearly at home in the building. I don't know what this business is in Orham Pamuk's memoir about packs of dogs roaming around Istanbul. I saw cats, cats, and more cats.