Tag Archives: Museum

Hagia Sophia – Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia-Sophia_166The Deësis mosaic, (Circa 1261) is a traditional iconic representation of  Christ Pantocrator carrying a book, and flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, with their hands raised in supplication on behalf of humanity.

Hagia Sophia

(Ayasofya Camii)
(90) 212 522 1750
Ayasofya Meydanı, Sultanahmet
Fatih Istanbul, Turkey


09:00 – 19:00     Daily,  April – October
09:00 – 17:00     Daily, October – April



Referred to as the Church of the Holy Wisdom for many centuries, the Hagia Sophia is the most important Byzantine structure and one of the world’s great monuments.  This incredible structure has been a church for 916 years, a mosque for 482 years and now a museum for for over 82 years!

The original cathedral is said to have been built by Constantine the great in 325, on the foundations of a pagan temple.  After a fire in 404, it was restored under the rule of Theodosius II.  Once again it was destroyed, this time in in the fires of the Nika Rebellion of 532.

The current structure  was built between 532 and 537 .  It was ordered and personally supervised by Emperor Justinian.  The architects, tasked with bringing to life the grandiose vision of the Emperor Justinian, were Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletus – who were professors of geometry at the University of Constantinople.

The great dome was rebuilt after an earthquake caused its collapse in 557; then rebuilt by Isidoros the Younger; there were other partial collapses in 989 and 1346.

The main architectural feature is the awe inspiring 32-metre center dome pierced at the bottom by closely spaced windows and supported on pendentives (a triangular segment of a spherical surface) and two semi-domes. The jambs were lined in gold mosaic, thus reflecting golden light and creating magical illusion of a suspended dome floating above the visual splendor of the cathedral.


above photo – note on the top of the Imperial Gate doors are embossed columns within an arch, this indicates the entrance to the temple.
Hagia-Sophia_048above photo -Imperial gate mosaic (886 and 912 AD) depicting Christ Pantocrator holding a book with the inscription “Peace be with you. I am the Light of the World.” Christ is surrounded by roundels portraying the Virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel. At Christ’s feet is a bearded emperor, who is believed to represent Leo VI asking for forgiveness.

Such a vast building at the center of court life required a significant body of people for both ceremonial functions and upkeep.  At the time of Justinian, the Hagia Sophia was staffed by 60 priests, 100 deacons, 40 deaconesses, 90 subdeacons, 110 lectors, 25 psalmists and 100 doorkeepers. (from Justinian’s Flee by Julian Rosen)

The Basilica was looted in 1204 by the Venetians and the Crusaders on the Fourth Crusade.  These invaders also replaced the patriarch of Constantinople with a Latin bishop.  The outcome was the division of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The crusaders took much with them and most of Hagia Sophia’s riches can be seen today not in Istanbul, but in the treasury of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

After the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Mehmed II had the Hagia Sophia morphed into the principal mosque of Istanbul.  With the addition of minarets, a mihrab (a niche indicating the direction of Mecca), a minbar (pulpit), and disks bearing Islamic calligraphy – the immense building also became a model for many of the Ottoman mosques.

The Ottoman conquerors continued a symbolic interpretation, fabricating an Ottoman past and a Muslim legend for the building.  Eventually all the human faces depicted in the church’s mosaics were covered in plaster due to the Islamic prohibition of figurative imagery.

In 1934 Atatürk secularized the building, and in 1935 it was made into a museum

Hagia-Sophia_095Above photo – Apse mosaic, depicting of the enthroned Virgin and Child, is the oldest of the surviving mosaics in Hagia Sophia.
Hagia-Sophia_094Above photo –  top left, partly damaged Archangel Gabriel mosaic.


The re-discovery of the figural mosaics after the secularization of Hagia Sophia was guided by the descriptions of the Fossati brothers, who had uncovered them a century earlier for cleaning and recording. The Fossatis also added the calligraphic roundels that remain today. They were commissioned to calligrapher Kazasker Izzet Efendi and replaced older panels hanging on the piers. (Holly Hayes)

The Hagia Sophia is so vast and full of information, it is one of the places that a guide can be invaluable.  However,  We were not very lucky, not only our guide but the other ones we eavesdropped on, seamed to be on a script of bad jokes and Turkish religious propaganda; continuously omitting legend and facts.  Hiring a local guide in sites like this one can expand one’s experience greatly.  We recommend contacting the history and architectural  faculties at local universities in order to get advice on how and where to hire a truly knowledagable guide.







above photo “The name given, Seraphim, is Hebrew and means “burning ones” (plural; the singular form is seraph). They are the closest to the throne of God, and as such are flame-like, “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29);
The six wings are arranged in a particular way: two pointing down (covering the feet), two up (covering the face), and two outstretched (in order to fly). The face was covered by a star when  it was converted into a Mosque; during our visit the restoration department was starting to uncover the faces.

above photo – bottom left note the sculpted Egyptian key of life and the Freemasonry symbol, this mark is on each column’s capital

Hagia-Sophia_062The circle, where the Emperors would be enthroned






Detail of the mosaic in the Vestibule of the Warriors (Circa X century) Virgin and Child between Justinian I presenting the church of the Hagia Sophia (above), which he rebuilt. and Constantine tine the Great holding a model of the city of Constantinople (Istanbul) as an offering  (below)


Hagia-Sophia_165The Deësis mosaic detail, St. John the Baptist



Hagia-Sophia_021Mahmud I ordered a restoration of the mosque in 1739 and added an ablution fountain



California Academy of Sciences – San Francisco, Ca

Ca Academy of Science 011Claude – the albino alligator

California Academy of Sciences

(1) 415.379.8000
55 Music Concourse Dr.
San Francisco, CA 94118


9:30 –   17:00   Monday – Saturday
11:30 –   17:00   Sunday

Directly across from the De Young Museum by the Golden Park is the LEED certified  California Academy of Scenes.  This is one fantastic science museum – an edifice of light !  Iconically supporting a 2.5 acre green roof, with solar panels bordering its numerous Skylights.  Designed by Italian Architect Renzo Piano (he of the impressively new 2015  Whitney Museum in NYC).

This magnificent structure houses the Kimball Natural History Museum, Steinhart aquarium, the Morrison planetarium AND a tropical forest habitat!

The reptile collection is worth coming alone – even if just for Claude the albino alligator!

Ca Academy of Science 013
Ca Academy of Science 012  Ca Academy of Science 022Saharan spiny tailed lizard
Ca Academy of Science 019
Ca Academy of Science 008
AcademyScyAbove Photo ©California Academy of Sciences
water_planet_hero_lg_motion_blur_1-Above Photo ©California Academy of Sciences

Museo Nacional de Antropologia – Mexico City, Mexico


Museo Nacional de Antropologia

(52) 55 5553 6275
Av Paseo de la Reforma S/N Esq. Calzada Ghandi,
Chapultepec Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo,
Mexico City 11560 , México


9:00 am – 7:00pm    Tuesday – Sunday

Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology opened in 1968 after careful design by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez in collaboration with Jorge Campuzano y Rafael Mijares.  So striking was the concept, that was awarded the gold medal at the 1965 São Paulo’s Architectural Bienal before a stone was turned; merely drawings and renders !

Between the parking area and the entry there is the Danza de los Voladores, where high-flyers hang from one foot and spin, descending around a 10-story pole.  Once you finish gawking at this spectacle is the massive statue of water god Tjáloc, welcoming the visitor to the museum.  The statue weights about 168 tons and was brought in from Coatlinchan, a town east of Mexico city.  Behind Tlaloc, from the subterranean parking, emerges a waterfall.  The path towards the entry is set with relaxing benches; note on the wall over the main doors is a predominant national coat of arms disc (see below).

The museum is a  two floor structure with a grand inner courtyard, inspired by the Cuadrángulo de las Monjas de Uxmal.  At the front of the courtyard is el paraguas (the umbrella), a massive structure supported by a concrete pillar in the center as water falls from around the top .  Note the top of the walls in this area for replicas of a Aztec codices (screenfold books).

On the far side, lays a large rectangular pond with clusters of long grass and Irises. You move in and out of this astounding courtyard to the surrounding anthropology rooms: Introduction to anthropology, America’s population, pre-classic, Teotihuacan, Toltecs, Mexica, Oaxaca cultures, golf cultures, Maya, western cultures and northern cultures.

The building is a modern achievement to show off the excitement of Mexican Heritage!

Museo-de-Antropologia-004National coat of arms symbolizes a scene from the legend of the foundation of Aztec/Mexica capital of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico city.

The legend states that the Mexicas set out east from coastal Aztlán, present-day Nayarit, in search of where to settle and establish their empire.  The trekked awaiting a sign from the god Huitzilopochtli telling them where to stop.

The sign they were looking for was quite specific: an eagle devouring a serpent while perched on a flowering nopal cactus  on a small island in the middle of a lake.

After a long journey, the symbol appeared in the Valley of Mexico in 1325.  The current site of Mexico DF and the seat of empire for 700 years!

For the ancient Mexicans, the eagle symbolized the cosmic force of the sun, while the earth’s force was embodied in the image of the serpent.  The eagle devouring the snake represents the communion of these vital forces. The nopal cactus being an important source of food in prehispanic times.



TIP: If you are on a time crunch an have only one day to visit the large museum, skip the 2 first halls and jump directly in to the Teotihuacan hall on the ground floor and continue on to the following sections.  Then, if you have time at the end, visit the first two halls on the ground floor, followed by a jump to their second floor; there you can view ta sample of the etno-linguistic diversity from different corners of Mexico, and dioramas of their customs such as crafts, religion, music and rituals.  In this area, one can have a great look at some of the best examples of current Mexican handcrafts.



statue of Chac Mool from Chichen Itza; it’s name translates from Yucatecan Maya as “paw swift like thunder”.  It is believed to represent a powerful warrior prince who had once ruled Chiche’n Itza.





Museo-de-Antropologia-068Zapoteca Jaguar clay sculpture originating from Monte Albán, Oaxaca  (100 B.C- 200 A.D) High 88.50 cm
Museo-de-Antropologia--Xiuhcoatl-036Stone figure of  Xiuhcoatl the fire serpent


The 3.5 meters high, the statue of Coatlicue is one of the more representative pieces of the museum.  It belongs to the Mexica culture, is made out of Andesite, a volcanic rock, and dates 1325-1521 A.D. Coatlicue, is the goddess of earth and mothers.

Myth tells that Coatlicue was sweeping when a white ball of feathers fell from the sky.  She picked it up and safeguarded it in her breasts.  She then became miraculously pregnant by Huitzilopochtli, the sun and war god and patron god of Mexica.  Her daughter Coyolxauhqui and the rest of her brothers, upset by the mysterious (immaculate) conception decided to kill their mother.  At the instant in which they were ready to do the deed, Huitzilopochtli was born in all his warrior attire -holding the chimalli (shield) and the xiuhcoatl (fire serpent) instrument which he used to slay his new brothers and sister.

This myth symbolizes the birth of a new sun to govern a new world.


Museo-de-Antropologia-081Mayan ceramic Anciano emergiendo del caracol (old man emerging from a shell), dating 600-900 A.D.  For the Mayas, shells had a very special meaning; they represented the earth, the infraworld and death.  At the same time, however, they were symbols of life and birth related to femininity and the moon goddess.



The Mexica Piedra de Tizoc was discovered in 1791 deep in Mexico city’s main square.  It dates from 1481-1486 A.D. and measures about  a 267cm (8′-9″) in diameter.  On top of this monument, a ritual was performed in which a Mexica warrior would fight a war prisoner.  The prisoner would be given a weak weapon and the warrior would be fully armed; turning this fight into a sacrifice.

On the face of the stone you can see the carved scene of a Tizoc governor grabbing the prisoner by the head – a sign of the enemies defeat. Also note the top right corner on each frame, at that corner there is an icon of the defeated town.

Museo-de-Antropologia-016Many of the walls in the different chambers are decorated with murals replicas of of ancient frescoes, like this one of  a Teotihuacan Fresco
Museo-de-Antropologia-016bTeotihuacan Fresco detail


Statue of Xochipilli, the Aztec god of art, games, beauty, dance, flowers, and song.  Amazingly, traces of the red pigment in which the statue was originally painted are still visible.  The Ear spools are a sign of noble status.  Psychotropic flowers are sculpted on the body.  Amongst them are the tobacco flower, used by the Aztecs to stimulate hallucinogens, morning glory – a vine with bell shaped flower – used as a visionary intoxicant to gain knowledge and. Sinicuichi, a yellow flower for memory aid.  On the knees and at the pedestal of the statue are mushroom flower motifs that represent clusters of magic mushrooms or Teonanacatl (flesh of the gods).  On the chest is the skin of a beast  and on its ankle are its claws.  Very powerful indeed!

Museo-de-Antropologia-053Aztec Macuilxochitl, god of songs, dance and music.

Mexica andesite sculptere of a Ocelotl Cuauhxicalli (circa 1500 A.D.)  resuming: 93cm high; 105cm; depth: 227cm. long.

The cuauhxicalli were sculpted in different shapes and served as offering containers. Often holding the hearts and blood of the sacrificed captives as well as other kind of offerings to the gods.  This ocelot cuauhxicalli has a circular hole on the back decorated with the images of the gods Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca.


A small outdoor grove with a ‘jungle temple’ for those who don’t make it out of DF 🙂