These drawings are extremely important in understanding how Hagia Sophia looked before the middle of the eighteenth century.

In 1680, Guillaume-Joseph Grelot, an artist-traveler, having spent some time in Constantinople, published a book of his drawings including views of Hagia Sophia.  This is his drawing of the nave with a dirrect view of the apse.  230 years after the Muslim Conquest of Constantinople and the mosaics are still to be seen.   The drawing is amazing, but it is not completely accurate in showing the figures in the eastern arch.  He depicts then as rather generic orant figures with their hands raised in prayer.  He shows the medallion in the center of the arch with the Throne of God.  On either side of the arch are - on the left;  a Virgin and child with the Byzantine Emperor John V Palaeologus below in Imperial Regalia and holding a staff.  On the opposite side the Virgin and Child was matched with a John the Baptist and a portrait of Helena, wife of John V below,

Interior of Hagia Sophia by Grelot from 1680Click above for a larger image

In 1710 Cornelius Loos visited Constantinople where he stayed for two years and made a series of drawings of the city and detailed drawings of the interior of Hagia Sophia.  The first one shows the the same view as Grelot.  he makes the same mistakes about the mosaics in the eastern arch, in fact his mistakes are so close to Grelot's that I wonder of he didn't use his published engravings to help him in completing his work.

Cornelius Loos drawing of the nave of Hagia SophiaClick above for a larger image

Here is another Loos drawing showing the north side of the church.  The mosaics of the tympanum have been painted or plastered over.  One can assume this was done during repairs conducted by Sinan in the 16th century when the three windows at the top were strengthened and made smaller.

Corneliius Loos Drawing of Hagia SophiaClick above for a larger image

Here is a drawing of the South Gallery by Loos.  These mosaics were probably lost in 1894 when a great earthquake in Constantinople brought down the decoration of the vaults.  They had been concealed by Fossati in their restoration of Hagia Sophia.  It is amazing that they were to be seen almost 300 years after the conquest when the church was used for Muslim worship.  In the center vault is a medallion of Christ Pantokrator surrounded by Seraphim or Cherubs (I get them confused, I believe they are the latter).  In the next vault is probably the descent of fire at Pentecost.  The Deesis mosaic was on the left - all the mosaics on the walls have been painted or plastered over.

Bob Atchison

Cornelius Loos drawing of the South Gallery of Hagia SophiaClick above for a larger image


Icon of St. Michael the Archangel, looted from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade and now in the Treasury of St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice. It is dated to the late 11th or early 12th centuries. It is 18 inches tall and 14 inches in width. made of gilt-silver and enamel, set with gemstones and glass. The gold cloisonne enamel work is amazing workmanship. It is impossible to know where this icon was kept in Constantinople, there are no records of its origin. Its size and opulence may mean it came from a private Imperial chapel.

Our Lady of the Pharos and St. Stephen's Chapel in the grounds of the Great Palace both had treasure houses of relics and precious works of art like this.

The icon of the Archangel is surrounded an entourage of military saints in enamel and points to his role as the the leader of the celestial army.

Icon Panel of the Archangel Michael, looted from Constantinople in 1204 and now in the Treasury of St. Mark's in Venice. It is 17 inches tall and 14 inches wide.  It is made of silver-gilt, enamel, precious stones, pearls and glass and is dated to the late tenth or early eleventh centuries.  The use of such images has been debated over the years, they could have been placed in a chapel iconostasis or carried in processions. Such and icon would be appropriate in a funeral chapel or a shrine to the Archangel himself.

The Emperor Issac II Angelos, one of the last Byzantine Emperors before the Fourth Crusade, poured enormous sums into a church he built for the Archangel near Constantinople, icons like this would have been part of its decoration.

Chalice of the Emperor Romanos II, 959-963, possibly from Hagia Sophia and looted in 1204.  It is now in the Treasury of Saint Mark's in Venice. It is 9 inches tall and 6 inches wide. The communion chalice is made of silver-gilt, gold cloissonne enamel, stones, pearls and glass. The cup is carved in sardonyx.