Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Corfu is a Greek island located in the Ionian Sea off the northwest tip of Greece and a stone's throw across the water from Albania. The main city is also called Corfu and has an old section that has narrow cobbled streets, colorful buildings and shops.It is protected by two castle fortresses, one of which is shown above. Corfu was controlled by Venice for 400+ years and was never conquered by the Turks. The Italians and the Germans occupied it during WWII and the city suffered some bomb damage. It is a favorite vacation spot for northern Europeans and a stop for some cruise ships.

The building above is on a small square. Below are typical streets and shops.

The shop shown below sells olive products. The bottles on the shelves are different varieties of olive oil.

The photos below show a building with close ups of  some of it's windows. 

This door and building have seen better days. Below are photos of another cobble stone street with shops and a door.

I'm not sure what's going on with this fish spa shown below. Maybe the fish are nibbling away on customers' feet or the fish are coming in for a little relaxation. Colorful, anyway.

Below are some more colorful buildings and windows.

Above is another narrow street and the doorway of a shop.

Below is a small square and a bell tower.

Below is a very colorful door.

Below is a narrow street with the bell tower of the Church of St. Spyridon in the background. St Spyridon is the patron saint of Corfu.

Can you guess what kind of shop is shown below?

The Durrell family lived on Corfu from 1935 to 1940. Gerald Durrell  became a naturalist and wrote three books about being a boy on Corfu: My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods.  I can personally vouch for them as great reads. Lawrence, Gerald's older brother and renowned novelist, also wrote about Corfu in Prospero's Cell-a Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of Coryca(Corfu). Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hagia Sophia Redux--Part 2

The above photo shows the upper gallery decor above the Empress' Loge. The upper gallery is reached by means of a long ramp, shown in the photos below. The Ramp starts in the narthex in the orthwest corner of the building.

The first photo below is taken from the upper gallery above the Emperor's entrance looking towards the apse. The second is from the upper gallery, apse end, looking towards the Emperor's entrance.

The three photos above show typical decor of the gallery ceiling, columns and window arches.The photo below shows where some of the Muslim plaster has been removed revealing the original Byzantine beneath. When the Muslims took over in the 15th century they redecorated, including plastering over the mosaics. Their belief does not like depictions of humans but does allow for geometric designs.

The above is a partial bit of a painting or mosaic from an arch in the upper gallery.

This mosaic of Mary with the Christ child is high up in the apse. It has been dated to the 9th century. Below is more of a closeup; at least as close as I could get from the upper gallery.

The mosaics that have been uncovered are quite amazing. The two photos below show what are called the Empress Zoe mosaics. They show Constantine IX, his Empress, Zoe, and Chris or Christ and Mary. They date from the 11th century.

This next mosaic is one of my favorites, even though it is only partially intact. It is referred to as the Deesis mosaic. In the early 1200s the Venetians sacked Constantinople and it was returned to Byzantine control 57 years later. This mosaic was done in 1261 in commemoration of the return to Byzantine control. It shows Mary and John the Baptist with Christ. I find Christ's eyes remarkable; they seem to bore right through me.

The above mosaic, found on the tympanum of one of the exit doors from the nave to the narthex, is another favorite. It shows the Emperor Justinian on the left presenting a model of the Hagia Sophia to Mary and the Christ child. On the right the Emperor Constantine presents a model of the city of Constantinople. This mosaic dates from the 9th or 10th century.

This is a part of the original frieze, depicting the Lamb of God.

A note on the photos--all the photos in this and the previous blog entry were taken with a Sony a900 DSLR and a Zeiss 24-70mm lens. Because of the difficulty of using a tripod here, they were all hand held. The interior shots were mostly if not all shot at ISO 2500, to get the aperture I wanted and have a fast enough shutter speed to prevent blurring.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hagia Sophia Redux--Part 1

Hagia Sophia is now a museum in Istanbul, although originally built as a Christian church in 527 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It was converted to a mosque when the Muslim Turks conquered Constantinople in the 15th century. It was opened to the public as a museum in 1935. The photo above shows the Hagia Sophia at sunrise from the Golden Horn; it is the large building to the left of center. Below is a closer view.

This was the largest dome in the world until a cathedral in Seville and St. Peter's in Rome were built in the 16th century AD. The Statue of Liberty will fit inside the dome as will Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral.

These flying buttresses were added several centuries after initial construction to add strength.

The mosaic shown here is over the door from the narthex into the nave. This was the door by which the Emperor entered; no one else was allowed to use it. The mosaic is from the 9th or 10th century and shows the emperor prostrating himself to Jesus Christ.

Above is a huge door; the doorway is between the narthex and the nave. Below is the threshold, showing the results of 1500 years of foot traffic.

We arrived about five minutes after the opening, 0900. Lights were still on in the interior and there were relatively few people inside. It was quiet inside and the quietude added greatly to the experience. You could almost feel the presence of the thousands upon thousands of people who had worshiped here over the centuries. The immenseness of the space and the fact that it was built in the 6th century also added to the awe of the place.

Below is a photo of the interior looking towards the apse. On the left is the Empress' box in which she attended services; it was entered from the gallery. The apse is in the middle with a mosaic of Mary and Jesus high up on the back wall. The large round medallions with what appears to be Arabic writing were added by the Muslims.

The photo above is taken from near the apse looking diagonally towards towards the Emperor's entrance. Below are shown  two of the massive pillars supporting the dome.

This is a massive marble jar brought from Pergamon.

 Above is the Empress' box. She and her retinue of ladies would attend services in this box.

Below is the dome, photographed from the main floor looking straight up. The last photo is of one of the six winged seraphim or cherubim, I'm not sure which is correct, which are found on the supports of the dome.

I first visited Hagia Sophia in 2009 and wrote about it in a blog entry of Oct 19, 2009. I will write more about it in the next blog entry, Hagia Sophia Redux--Part 2.