Mosaics of Hagia Sophia

Palace of the BoukoleonDear Readers:

When I was in second grade I read my first book on Constantinople.  It was a children's edition on the Fall of Constantinople.  There were only a few drawings in, no pictures.  I decided to make my own.  I took ruled paper and pasted the pages together to make a scroll.  I titled it "Bob and Mark's Adventures in Constantinople".  Mark Dixon was my best friend then. I drew a long panorama of all of the monuments and statues of the city.  As I made additions I just pasted them  on the end.  I remember making a presentation to my class on Constantinople, but I don't know what happened to the scroll.  That's a picture of me when I was 8 - with Santa.

I taught myself to paint icons and make mosaics - I made a model of Hagia Sophia.  Does this all sound strange?  I grew up in Mountlake Terrace, Washington and we had no cultural institutions - and few books in our town.

One thing that amazes me today is the amazing, beautiful reconstructions of Constantinople that are being created now.  There are videos, too.  Who could have imagined that we could have such real immersive experiences with the past?

It has been a great pleasure to have had this website up on the web in various forms since 1996.  We get a huge numbers of page views each month - 10,000 a month - and that shows me that this website is doing its job.  I hope you enjoy this section on other monuments.  I have been very fortunate to have visited Istanbul and Western Turkey over the years and I am adding personal stories into the website now.

Boukoleon Palace in Constantinople


Sad Fate Beautiful Doors of Hagia SophiaThe Sad Fate of the Beautiful Doors

Millions of people pass by these doors to enter Hagia Sophia - they are totally exposed to the public - and unguarded.  Anyone could grab a piece.  It turns out the doors were mutilated though neglect and parts were stolen!

> Click here to view. 

Column Capital in Hagia Sophia20+ More New & Beautiful Images of Hagia Sophia

You have probably never seen these pictures before, I have never shared them on the web until now.  They are almost entirely taken in natural light of unusual views and close-ups of things I find very interesting!

> Click here to view. 

Angels of SerbiaChurch of Saints Serguis and Bacchus - Little Aya Sophia

This church was built prior to Hagia Sophia and has been described as a prototype for it.  It's gorgeous, bright and airy as a recently restored mosque just a few steps away from the hordes of tourists at the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Hippodrome.

> Click here to view. 

Angels of SerbiaA Collection of Angels from Serbia

Here are sixteen beautiful images of 13th Century Byzantine Angel frescos from Serbia that you have probably never seen.  This is a great reference for iconographers looking for angel prototypes.

> Click here to view. 

Doors of Hagia SophiaMonastery of Saint John the Forerunner at Stoudios

This was the most important monastery in Constantinople and the location of many historical events in the history of the Byzntine Empire.  It was also the home of school of artist-monks and scholars. The most famous monk was Theodore the Studite.  The church is now in ruins.

> Click here to view. 

25 Images from the Daphni Monastery Church

Here are some of the most beautiful mosaics in Greece.   World-famous for their beautiful colors and classical elegance - they date from the Comnenian Dynasty around 1100.  These rare images were taken by Makis Skiadaresiss and are from the Dumbarton Oaks archive. 

> Click here to view mosaics     > Click here to view exterior pictures

columns and statues

Church of the Virgin of the Pharos - Relics in Constantinople

The Church of Theotokos tou Pharou - was located behind the Palace of the Boukoleon. It was the church-reliquary of Byzantium - its Sainte-Chapelle. Learn about the Mandylion, the Karmion and relics from the Passion of Christ that were kept here.

> Click here to view. 

columns and statuesColumns - Monumental Statues - Four Hippodrome Horses

The column-statues of Constantine, Marcian (or Leo) and Justinian;  the horses of Saint Mark's that were taken from the Hippodrome. Beautiful reconstructions of these monuments and more pictures of the Colossus.

> Click here to view.

Palace of the Boukoleon

The famous palace that was built into the seawalls of Constantinople.  One of the most beautiful, it was decorated with columns and architectural details.  The walls were decorated with rare marble revetments - the vaults with with ornamental designs and gold mosaics.

> Click here to view. 

Roses of Constantinople - KazanlikRoses of Constantinople - Church of Saint Theodosia

A page on the gardens and roses of the city and how they were used in perfumes and everyday life.  When the city of Constantinople fell in 1453, the church was decorated with roses for her feast day.  Constantine XI prayed here the day before the he died in battle.

> Click here to view.

Mosaics - History - Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos

Although these beautiful mosaics are the third largest collection in the city of Istanbul; they are virtually unknown by the public.  After the conquest Mehmet II would sit and debate theology with Patriarch Gennadios under this mosaic in the side chapel.

> Click here to view.

Tekfur Saray - Palace of Constantine Porphyrogenitos

This palace was built in the late 13th century and survived until the early 20th century.  It's a wonderful example of secular architecture. The palace was recently ruined in a modern restoration.

> Click here to view.

Nicopeia Icon of the Theotokos from San MarcoGreat Nicopeia Theotokos Icon - Now in Venice

This was the great Imperial icon that protected the city of Constantinople and was borne by its Emperors into battle. It was looted by the Crusading army of the Fourth Crusade and carried off by the Venetians to a magnificent chapel in Saint Mark's.

> Click here to view.

Stained Glass - Opus Sectile - Discoveries in the Pantokrator

Arthur Megaw of The Byzantine Institute discovered 12th century stained glass and a magnificent inlaid marble floor in the Pantokrator. His discovery shook the art world - it meant the Byzantines discovered this art form. He found many other amazing things.

> Click here to view.

Marble and Porphyry Panels above the Royal Doors

In 1960 the Byzantine Institute cleaned the Western Wall marble revetment of Hagia Sophia.  They also cleaned and restored a panel with a cross, panels of porphyry and delightful panels of dolphins.  This is Paul Underwood's report with color pictures added.

> Click here to view.

City of Byzantium

Meet Bob Atchison - the Creator of this Website

I am an icon painter, Russian Historian and Austin Web Designer formerly of Seattle, Washington and now living in Austin, Texas. My interest in Byzantium and icons began when I was 8 years old and read my first book on Byzantium called "The Fall of Constantinople".

> learn more



959-963, possibly from Hagia Sophia and looted in 1204. 40 big chalices like this were looted from Hagia Sophia alone! 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 cloisonne enamel, stones, pearls and glass. The cup is carved in sardonyx.

Ivory Casket from ConstantinopleIVORY CASKET

An 11th century ivory and bone casket with gilded copper mounts from Constantinople.


One of the finest portraits in European art - 4th or 5th century caved in Pentelic marble. The scroll in the hand and the deliberate choice of Pentelic marble indicates the sitter was wanted to convey a connection to Classical Greece and perhaps Athens itself. The Academy in Athens was still functioning at this time. This bust was originally the right part of a pair. The left side seems to have been broken off on purpose. This is a bust that would be much better to appreciate a work of art if the nose was restored. The loss is so distracting that one cannot see the beauty and sensitivity of this portrait.


This manuscript page comes from the Jaharis illuminated Psalter, which dates from the 1100's.  It is hard to believe it is only 8 inches tall.  The skill of the illuminator is astounding.


This gold and pearl Byzantine cross dates from 1200-1400.  It must have been made in Constantinople for a high status person.  There is no record of where it was found.