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The Hagia Sophia of Trebizond 

The Hagia Sophia of Trebizond

By far the most important historical monument in Trabzon, the monastery church of Hagia Sophia deserves a leisurely visit and extended enjoyment. It is far enough, at the western edge of the city, to justify a taxi ride. In the early hours of the morning, one can combine the beauty of the morning sun on the Black Sea and the peace of the short period before the arrival of tourist buses.
The Hagia Sophia of Trebizond was built during.the reign of Manuel I (1238-1263), at a time when the refugee Byzantine court first began regarding itself as a long-term alternative to the Empire in Constantino¬ple. It was conceived as a rival of its namesake, the great cathedral of the Hagia Sophia in the Byzantine capital and constituted one of the most important monuments of medieval Byzantine architecture. Its bold and original design, which displayed the influence of Armenian and Georgian traditions prevalent in the east, eventually influenced all late Byzantine (and Russian) ecclesiastical monuments.

The Hagia Sophia of Trebizond details

Following the conquest, Hagia Sophia became in turn, a mosque, a military depot, a cholera hospital, a mosque again in 1880. It was turned into a museum in 1964, after the extraordinary restoration work undertaken by David Talbot Rice and David Winfield had succesfully recovered many of the original frescoes from under centuries of grime and whitewash.
Some 55 frescoes in various states of preservation are discernible in the church. They all date from the 1260s, and constitute one of the most striking collections of Byzantine art to be found anywhere in the world. Like the architecture of the church itself they represent a turn away from the rigid formalism of earlier ages toward a sort of Byzantine artistic renaissance. One notes, for example, the scene of Christ at Lake Tiberias on the left (north) wall of the apsis, where the facial expressions of each
character is worked out with a degree of realism that is unusual in Byzantine art. The composition as a whole has a dynamism and balance worthy of the Italian masters. On the arch of the apsis, the Ascension of Christ is depicted with a depth and gentle¬ness that is far removed from the stern Pantocrators of Byzantine tradition. In the north porch a Suffering ,Job stands out among a series of Old Testament scenes with the genuinely forlorn expression on his face. The deep spirituality and solid design of the compositions is often lightened with realistic detail, like a jolly old man with jaunty hat on the north wall, or scenes of fairyland phantasy like the one of Jesus Healing the Canaanite's Daughter where a hairy devil bursts furiously out of the girl's throat.

Manuel I Komnenos Of Trebizond 1237-1263

The handsome belfry is an addition of 1443, and reflects the Italian influence that was dominant in the late years of the Empire. It contains frescoes of inferior quality dating from a later period.


PART 1: Imagined Empire
The Main Square
A Long Walk
Atatürk House
Bazaar District
Hagia Sophia
Rising Above
Lady of the Mountains
PART 10:
Obscure Monasteries
PART 11:
The Way to the Pass
PART 12:

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