Who Are You, Hagia Sophia?
Within your inner dome,
Madonna and Child watch over us,
serene with nothing but ethereal air
separating from roundels of calligraphy
praising Allah and Muhammad.
Your history is our history,
our enduring struggle for meaning,
our eternal identity crisis.
From many archaic species
we are now all human,
both united and separated
by our stories, our beliefs.
Are you a thin gossamer line of peace
or a slash of inevitable dissension?
Are you the birth of tolerance
or do you foretell its end?
Who are you, Hagia Sophia?
Who are we?
(Hagia Sophia (pronounced Hya Sofia) in
Istanbul was dedicated in 537 AD. With
the largest dome on earth for over 1000
years, it was first Christian Eastern Orthodox,
then after the Ottoman conquest in 1435,
Muslim mosque. In 1935, it became a museum.)
Turkey on One Foot
The photographs of Hagia Sophia were taken from a new vantage point for me: sitting in a wheelchair. On my way to turkey while standing in the O’Hare Concourse looking up at a sign, a people-mover vehicle ran over my left foot and knocked me down. I’d been looking forward to this trip for much too long to let a few bruises stop me, so I got on the plane and talked the attendant out of some ice for my foot. The foot looked a little alarming by Istanbul; time to have a doctor’s opinion. Two metatarsal bones were broken and I got a new plastic boot from toe to knee, a rickety wheelchair, and crutches.
I stayed in the hotel for one day under doctor’s orders, wondering just how crazy I was for insisting on seeing the world with a broken foot. Not crazy at all: I visited much more of Turkey from Gallipoli to the Pergamon Ruins (Bergama Asklepion Archaeological Site) to Cappadocia on that trip, albeit slowly, hobbling along on crutches and boot. The wheelchair survived a short roll through Troy but met its match at Ephesus. After rattling over that rocky path, the chair deteriorated to a point where it could not roll straight and had to tack down a path from side to side. Its final resting place was as a modern relic among the ruins of Ephesus.
Of all the astonishing views of this country, the one that continues to haunt me happened that first day out in my wheelchair. I felt overwhelming awe in Hagia Sophia! To absorb its legendary history starting in the sixth century as a Christian Church with the world’s largest dome, through its period as a Mosque, and finally in its current reincarnation as a museum was unforgettable. A minor frustration: I couldn’t run around and take photos from all angles. My constrained lengthy view from the wheelchair might explain why I was so moved by the Christian and Muslim symbols sharing that amazing space.
BIO: Kim McNealy Sosin
Until her retirement a few years ago, Kim McNealy Sosin was a professor and department chair of economics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She published numerous articles in economics journals, and also created and continues to maintain several websites, for example, the economic education website, EcEdWeb (http://ecedweb.unomaha.edu). Kim continues to serve on economic education boards, in addition to philanthropic boards. She particularly enjoys travel and photography of travel, nature, and landscapes. Recently, some of her poetry and photography has been published. She also collects vintage fountain pens. More information about Kim Sosin’s work is found on her website: https://www.sosin.us .