Work should continue in Hagia Sophia: Op-ed

Work should continue in Hagia Sophia: Op-ed

İlber Ortaylı
Work should continue in Hagia Sophia: Op-ed

More than anyone else, some people in Turkey believe that the Western world is really moving towards tolerance, and they think they are taking advantage of it, because even though they defame some aspects of the West, they get fascinated by those who come and go to Europe. This is a general quality of people who are literate. They are called “drool bucket.”

Western Christianity has intellectuals of Christian culture even if they have not baptized their children for three generations. In addition to leftist and atheist culture, there is also a cultural world fed by Jewish intellectuals, and despite all their contributions, this group in the German-French world was exposed to the hostility of Christians. They came to an end with the terrible Holocaust in World War II. In the West, people are Catholic, there are also others from other denominations, there are truly Protestants. The Orthodox world is Orthodox, even though they cannot get along with Orthodox priests and do not visit the churches much.

The Pope’s speech on Hagia Sophia does not reflect the subtle wisdom. Why does he “feel great pain?” Does he mean 1204? No. You cannot predict the situation behind the word of hurt, I am not sure easy days are waiting for us as the masses are directed. The issue is so clear, now let’s come to the point.

Support of Mimar Sinan

Hagia Sophia is a classical Roman architectural and engineering work. The culture of the men, who built it, is from Western Anatolia, one of the first places to accept Christianity, but in fact, it is a region that embraces Roman Imperial culture and Hellenism.

Its architects Tralles (Aydın) Anthemius and Miletos (Miletus) Isidoros knew the ancient science and mathematicians very well. Anthemius compiled and named many texts that were lost from the Library of Alexandria, primarily from Archimedes. In this regard, instead of the cylinder base of large domes in Roman architecture, they built it on the arches and pillars, which is a difficult job. A few years after it was built, the building was demolished and rebuilt. But the real big final restoration and support is from the Architect Sinan. Such a work could not be made in the Eastern Roman Empire, in Europe, or in Asia during the entire Byzantine and Christian times.

As a work like Hagia Sophia, which revived during the reign of Iustanius, was completed in seven years, it is known that the construction of even today’s cathedrals continued for hundreds of years. Until Brunelleschi, the world did not recognize a work that surpassed Hagia Sophia. Even the aesthetics of the Florence Cathedral, which Brunelleschi built, cannot be compared with Hagia Sophia.

Thirty-seven years later, the 15th century anniversary of the creation of this magnificent work will be celebrated in the homeland we Turks have. The 500th year of the Süleymaniye Mosque, one of the great works of the Islamic world, namely of Mimar Sinan, will be celebrated in 2057 and the Selimiye Mosque in 2074. There is also the Blue Mosque, the third part of the Istanbul skyline. Unfortunately, due to the unnecessary fights for it, we could not bestow the necessary honor and commemoration on its 400th year in 2017.

3.5 million people visit annually

The 15th century of Hagia Sophia is not like the anniversary of other 15-century monuments. There is no temple that has survived for so many years. Most are in ruins or empty. Their volume cannot be compared with Hagia Sophia. We do not yet know what the force called sound is. 3.5 million people enter this temple annually. There is no map of infrastructure tunnels and channels that provide the cleaning of the wastewater and moisture required for the building to survive. The work of a group from the Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ) that started it was interrupted. While they were working, two charlatans entered Hagia Sophia from another corner. They would find the remains of a saint or something.

Work should continue in Hagia Sophia: Op-ed

The group led by Dr. Çiğdem Özkan Aygün should continue working. This is an underground system. It has been known since ancient times, and it is Mimar Sinan who knows it very well in new times. This system can be seen in Süleymaniye. It was also applied in the Topkapı Palace. As a matter of fact, when the İTÜ group entered a cistern hole in Topkapı Palace, they came out of Hagia Sophia. A diver, who entered the halls of Hagia Sophia, came out of a toilet in the seraglio at Topkapı Palace.

What to do?

Restoration must continue regularly. It will be seen here if new facts will be identified, new repairs will be made and the words like international cooperation (used by European politicians) will be realized. UNESCO will show itself more. Of course, this is impossible. The important thing is that our nation, the owner of Hagia Sophia, should protect and repair it 15 centuries later (5.5 centuries after the conquest of their ancestors). Let’s not forget that we have been the protector of Hagia Sophia since Fatih Sultan Mehmed. In 1846, Sultan Abdülmecid Han made the Fossatti brothers carry out a delightful restoration. He financed the album of Hagia Sophia prepared by Fossatiler. This is what suits us. The property is in our custody.

The second floor of Hagia Sophia can neither be visited nor stepped on. People who can enter are architectural historians, restorers, masters and engineers. Because the frescoes here are very difficult to protect, breathing is their biggest enemy. Intense human breath destroys these works. Those, who don’t believe us, should ask Russian experts, who close the Kremlin museum and churches from time to time. They will give the necessary information. The same is valid for Göreme churches and the 500-year Ottoman classical works.

The Church of Bakhos, which we call Little Hagia Sophia, one of the similar places, has been restored before, and today it is a mosque (Little Hagia Sophia Mosque). Likewise, the repair of the Kariye Monastery is over. Pantokrator Monastery, which is the Zeyrek Mosque, is not finished. It seems that these were opened to public in a random, uncontrolled manner.

It is seen in the photographs in media that the necessary attention was not shown and that the mosque community made arrangements in their own way. In such historical monuments, even a nail must be subject to the permission of the Board of Monuments and the Culture Ministry.

The most important issue is that the famous Uffizi Gallery and some churches (such as Santa Croce, Orsanmichele) in Florence, are now receiving visitors with quota; not everyone can buy tickets. There is Brunelleschi’s Duomo (cathedral) and Baptisterium next to it. I wonder why our museums, especially Topkapı, do not receive visitors with quotas? Especially, it is not possible for Hagia Sophia to tolerate an uncontrolled mass. Under the state control, a certain number of people must be inside the mosque, otherwise years of restorations will go into trash. All these issues should be reconsidered and shared with the public.