Art in Turkey

Istanbul might be our favorite city in the world. Where else can you see Byzantine churches, mosques by Sinan that will take your breath away, and be transported back to the time of Constantine?

Some background

videos + essays

Late Byzantine naturalism: Hagia Sophia’s Deësis mosaic
Late Byzantine naturalism: Hagia Sophia’s Deësis mosaic

This mosaic shows how the arts—and an interest in naturalism—flourished in the final centuries of the Byzantine Empire.

Hagia Sophia as a mosque
Hagia Sophia as a mosque

After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, the sultan repurposed this church, adding slender “pencil” minarets.

Mimar Sinan, Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
Mimar Sinan, Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul

This mosque was the crowning achievement of architect Sinan’s career and a trophy of Ottoman imperial grandeur.

<em>The Alexander Sarcophagus</em>
The Alexander Sarcophagus

Alexander the Great conquered the known world, but who was this monument for and what does it symbolize?

<em>Theotokos mosaic</em>, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Theotokos mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The size and solidity of this Virgin and Christ reaffirmed the power of images in the wake of Byzantine iconoclasm.

Hagia Sophia as a mosque
Hagia Sophia as a mosque

After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, the sultan repurposed this church, adding slender “pencil” minarets.

Mimar Sinan, Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul
Mimar Sinan, Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul

Unlike other of Sinan’s mosques, this one is covered with tiles, sits above shops, and is accessed from a stairway.

The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)
The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)

With its stacked domes and six minarets, the Blue Mosque dominates Istanbul’s skyline—and the nearby Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The golden dome of this vast building appears suspended from heaven. It has withstood quakes, conquest, and crusades.