This is one of the grandest and most historic interiors on this planet–the grand cathedral of Hagia Sofia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom, in Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey. This shot is from a spherical panorama on 360cities.net, which you should know from this post and this post that I absolutely love. One of the greatest things about it is that, unlike Google Earth, on 360cities.net you can see interiors!
This particular shot looks toward the altar, which is the gold “huts” in the back of the nave. There’s so much history here it’s almost impossible to comprehend it all. St. Sofia was, of course, the center of the universe of the Byzantine empire. Emperors were coronated here; some were murdered. Here is where the Pope’s delegation threw down the Bull of Excommunication in 1054, creating the formal schism between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which continues nearly a thousand years later. Here is where the knights of the Fourth Crusade enshrined a harlot in the Patriarch’s chair, and stampeded donkeys and horses through the church to show their contempt for the ways of the empire they had just conquered.
Several scenes of my novel Zombies of Byzantium take place in this room, including the final scene in the book.
You really must check out the full panorama. Be sure to scan straight upwards so you can see the underside of the dome. Although Hagia Sofia was built in the 530s A.D., the dome has collapsed a couple of times. This one, I believe, dates from the 14th century. The interior has been painted with sayings from the Koran, which was done at the time of the Ottoman conquest (1453) when Hagia Sofia became a mosque.
This is absolutely amazing! Someday I’ll stand in this room in person. The history is just too rich to be missed.