I had the opportunity to visit Hagia Sophia. Its is one of the only mosques (converted to a museum) that people are allowed to enter with their shoes on. Although the remains of the “original monument” have been severely damaged and degraded (due to earthquakes) over the years of its existence, it is a notable monument that is highly sought out by tourists and locals. Constantine the Great built Hagia Sophia as a church for “the new Rome”; utilizing the Byzantine architecture style which is filled with detailed mosaics, marbles and pillars. The invention of the basilica greatly contributed to future architectural models that thrived during the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim worlds alike. In 1204, the cathedral was attacked by “crusaders” (this is where the divide of Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches caused the Great Schisms of 1504). Sultan Mehmet the conqueror converted the building into a mosque during his triumphant reign over Istanbul. Later on, during his reign, much of the mosaics were destroyed (due to the nature of Islam; pictorial images are misleading “figurative imagery”).
The Blue Mosque:
I was also able to visit the world-renowned monument known as the Blue Mosque. This building was built to “rival” Hagia Sophia. The architectural history of the mosque dates back to 1609, when architect Mehmet Aga took seven consecutive years to build this grand structure. All tourists/visitors/locals must enter through the North gate, where each individual’s shoes are removed and plastic bags are supplied over the feet. The experience is quite exhilarating, as the high ceilings and intricate details outline the ingenuity of human artistic development during those times. Women and men come to pray here. Women are seated in the back (with a short two foot fenced area) while the men pray at the front of the church (this is so that the men do not allow their eyes to be strayed from prayer if viewing a woman’s figure, or more importantly, her behind).
Medinah Temple (also known as downtown bloomingdales)
Location: Wabash (between Grand and Ohio)
Architects: Huehl & Schmid
Inspiration: Middle-Eastern-style shrine built to house 4,200 people
Purpose: To house the Chicago chapter of the national shrine fraternal organization known as “The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles”
Potential lesson plan inspired by the mosque:
1) A project that incorporates architecture
2) The issue of symmetry
3) Byzantine era
4) Mosaic art