Visiting the Basilica of Saint Sophia in Istanbul is like reading a book of history.
The most ancient Basilica of Saint Sophia was built by order of Emperor Constantine, the one who liberalized all religions in the year 313 AD. The basilica was dedicated to Divine Wisdom, in Turkish Haghia Sophia, but it didn’t last long, because it was destroyed by a fire.
Later, by will of Empress Theodora, wife of Emperor Justinian, the Basilica of Saint Sophia was rebuilt bigger than it was before. It is said the Emperor Justinian aimed at realizing a basilica bigger than the Temple of Solomon. Justinian is renowned for creating the Codex of Justinian, a body of laws which was the fundamental legal text for many years to come in continental Europe. This emperor was intolerant against the pagans. If they didn’t convert to Christianity they were executed. Due to his intolerance against the heathen, he shut down the Philosophy School of Athens.
After the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Basilica of Saint Sophia was converted first into a mosque, and later into a museum.
What surprised me was the closeness between Christian and Muslim symbols. In fact, verses of the Koran stood beside the mosaics portraying Jesus and Our Lady. This means to be tolerant.
In my opinion, only one God exists, the modes of worshipping God differ. The Basilica of Saint Sophia in Istanbul highlights the idea of tolerance and respect towards all religions.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind