CHRISTIAN CHURCH OR MOSLEM MOSQUE?
Founded as the Second Rome by the Emperor Constantine,
Constantinople fell to the Moslems in 1453
and Mehmet II, the Conqueror, proclaimed Constantinople
capital of the Ottoman Empire
from the altar of the glorious Cathedral of Santa Sofia.
It was then that one of the oldest Christian churches
acquired two minarets
in the process of becoming a mosque
and the enormous camel skin shields
painted with the name of Allah
were hung high in the vast reaches of Sofia's soaring space.
This was the revered Greek Orthodox Christian church
where Peter the Great of Russia had said he wished to be buried --
where the Czarina Anne, his heir,
yearned to be crowned Empress of a vanquished Turkish sultanate --
dreams that were never fulfilled.
The Hagia Sofia is now a museum,
but nearly every week the Istanbul newspapers have a request
from the Moslems (urged on by Arab fundamentalists)
to make the ancient building a mosque once more.
If history makes precedent,
the five percent of the population that is Christian
might well insist the Hagia Sofia
should be returned to its original purpose.
SUE LITTLETON: Poems of Istanbul
POETRYREPAIRS 13.02: 021