Interior Of Santa Sophia

Interior Of Santa Sophia.

Columns In Santa Sophia

Columns In Santa Sophia.

When we examine the details of this historic shrine, we begin to realize the richness of its decoration. In one place are galleries resting on beautiful shafts of jasper, porphyry and alabaster, supporting in their turn arches that must have once been resplen-tinuous coating of golden mo-olithic columns were part of the spoils taken from pagan shrines in Greece, Asia Minor, and Syria, all of which were plundered by the Christians, that they might thereby render this the richest sanctuary in the world. Its wealth was, therefore, almost fabulous. A thousand persons were employed in its service. It boasted of golden cases to contain the Gospels, of chalice-cloths embroidered with pearls, of altars encrusted with jewels, of crucifixes of solid gold, and of doors of cedar, amber and ivory. In fact, it was called: - "The terrestrial Paradise" - "The earthly throne of the glory of God." Who could have then imagined what would be the fate of this magnificent temple of Justinian, which had beheld the coronation of all Christian emperors for a thousand years? Yet, at length arrived the fatal 29th of May, 1453, when the Turks captured Constantinople. The night before, at midnight, the last of the Greek emperors, who. like the founder of the city, also bore the name of Constan-tine, had come into the church to take the sacrament, in preparation for the death which he foresaw must surely be the fate, not only of himself, but of his officers and soldiers. For, faithful to their country, they had resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible in a last desperate attempt to beat back the invading army of the Moslems. A few hours later, Christians, - to the number of one hundred thousand, it is said, - crowded into the sanctuary, hoping that God would at least preserve His house and them. They barred the doors and filled the nave, the galleries and the vestibule, with a dense, suffocating mass of men, women and children, imploring God for mercy. But they prayed in vain. Down went the doors under the terrific pressure, and in rushed the demons of war with yells of fury. Language fails to describe the scene that followed. Crucifixes were smashed to atoms; altars were shivered into fragments; statues were overthrown; mosaics were pried out of the walls with battle-axes, under the supposition that they were gems; and all this amidst the blare of trumpets, the groans of dying men, and the shrieks of captured women and children destined to be sold as slaves. At last there came a moment of comparative silence. On the threshold had appeared the form of Mohammed II, who, rising in his stirrups and smiting one of the columns with his blood-stained hand, uttered the words destined thenceforth to dedicate the hitherto Christian temple to the Moslem faith: "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet!"

Pilgrims From Mecca

Pilgrims From Mecca.

An Entrance To Santa Sophia

An Entrance To Santa Sophia.

Historic Monoliths, Santa Sophia

Historic Monoliths, Santa Sophia.

A Sultan 's Tomb In Santa Sophia

A Sultan 's Tomb In Santa Sophia.

Characteristic Minarets

Characteristic Minarets.

There are no less than four hundred and eighty-one mosques in Constantinople, all more or less modeled after the purely Byzantine church of Santa Sophia. The most signal feature of these structures is their minarets. What a debt of gratitude the world owes the Moslems for the creation of that lovely architectural design, - the minaret. There can scarcely be less than a thousand of them in the Ottoman capital. Many consist of pure white marble, and cut their slender silhouettes against the clear blue sky, sometimes resembling delicate wax-tapers, at other times suggesting silver lances, tipped with points of gold. Moreover, each is encircled by finely chiseled balconies, which in the distance seem like jeweled rings betrothing earth and heaven. On every one of them, five times a day, and as punctual as a figure moved by clockwork, appears the muezzin, or Mohammedan caller to prayer. In a clear, ringing voice he chants upon the air the sacred formula of Islam: "God is great, - There is but one God, - Mohammed is the prophet of God, - Prayer is better than sleep, - Come to prayer!" Toward each of the four points of the compass are these words directed. Then all is still, save perhaps the echo of some more distant voice. Wherever I have heard this cry: in India, Syria, Egypt, or Constantinople, it has always thrilled me to remember that, every day, from all the mosques in Europe, Africa, and Asia, those words summon a hundred and eighty millions of people to turn their thoughts from earthly occupations and from all idolatry, to worship God alone.