Mosaics of Hagia Sophia

Here are a selection of zoom images of interiors and art from Hagia Sophia, Theotokos Pammacharistos and Our Savior in the Chora -  I have chosen some of my favorite images to give you a taste of what you might see on a visit Istanbul today.  Most tourists never get the chance to see the Pammakaristos because it is far off the customary, well-worn and beaten track most tour groups take.  Click on any below image to zoom view and enjoy. Send me your comments and please link to us.  - Bob Atchison.

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

Four Hippodrome Horses

Hagia Sophia Horses of San Marco

The Horses of "San Marco"

The horses, along with a quadriga with which they were combined, were the glory of the Hippodrome of Constantinople; they were displayed above the entrance arches through which the charioteers entered. They are the "four gilt horses that stand above the Hippodrome" that "came from the island of Chios under Theodosius II" mentioned in an early 9th century Byzantine Chronicle. They were still there in 1204, when they were looted by Venetian forces as part of the sack of the capital of the Byzantine Empire in the Fourth Crusade.

The collars on the four horses were added in 1204 to obscure where the animals heads had been severed to allow them to be transported from Constantinople to Venice. Shortly after the Fourth Crusade, Doge Enrico Dandolo sent the horses to Venice, where they were installed on the terrace of the facade of St. Mark's Basilica in 1254.

Horses of San Marco - Constantinople LootThey could be Roman, even as late as the reign of Constantine the Great.  The horse eyes have stylistic parallels to that period.

Hagia Sophia Hippodrome Horses

The horses are cast in almost pure copper to make it easier to gild them with mercury gilding.  The surface of the gilding shows many scratches, this seems to have been intentional to soften the glare on the most reflective spots.

Horses Constantinople HippodromeHippodrome Constantinople HorsesThe original horses were removed from the facade of San Marco to protect them from the elements and replaced with copies. They are now to be seen in a room above the narthex of the church. The copies were made in bronze, not copper, and their weathered surface patina no longer matches the originals.

Copies of the San Marco Horses