The Image of the Hagia Sophia of the Russian Travellers in the 19th Century


Rasimgil M.

Uluslararası Ayasofya Sempozyumu, İstanbul, Turkey, 24 - 25 September 2020, pp.293-310

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: İstanbul
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.293-310

Abstract

Relations with the Byzantine Empire, developed by the acceptance of Christianity in the Russian Empire, were interrupted when Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans. After the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774), new routes opened to the Christian East for the Russians. Russia gained the right to protection of the Orthodox society in the Ottoman territory, as well as the right to have permanent ambassadors in Istanbul. According to Article 8 of the treaty, Russian priests and Russian citizens were allowed to visit Jerusalem and other holy places. The Ottoman State was also responsible for the security of Russian citizens during these travels. Becoming active in the floating trade of the Russians, transportation between Odessa and Constantinople brought new opportunities for Russian pilgrims to travel to the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople, which is called Tsargrad by Russians, was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodoxy upon which Russians build their identity and culture.

At the beginning of the 19th-century triple doctrine ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality’, formulated by Russian Minister of National Education Count Sergey Uvarov (1786-1855), became the ideology of the period. This ideology led to establishing various organic relations between the Russian Middle Ages and the Byzantine Empire. The medieval heritage in Russia began to be preferred in politics as well as in architecture to reveal the religious and political individuality of the state. According to the representatives of the Slavophilism movement, that emerged in Russian philosophy in the first half of the 19th century, Orthodoxy was the only source of the soul of Sobornost or ‘Free Unity’, so that Orthodox church was the only real church. This tendency led to the emergence of the idea of Sophia,the ideas of the universal church, and universal Christianity in the second half of the century. Therefore, Hagia Sophia, where the idea of Sophia became tangible, created a universal sanctuary in Russian philosophy. The relationship that Russians tried to establish between the Slavs and Byzantine formed a theoretical knowledge with the holy concept of Sophia, and Hagia Sophia was the architectural model of this knowledge. The ‘Russian-Byzantine Style’ was born in Russian architecture the influence of the Slavophilism movement that emerged in Russian philosophy. Although different kinds of architectural movements appeared in the 19th century Russia, the Russian-Byzantine Style as an ideal architecture for ideal Russian church architecture became the official national style in the first half of the century. The characteristic of the Russian-Byzantine style was an eclectic combination of the architectural forms of medieval Russian architecture and the elements of Byzantine architecture. Although the Byzantine motifs were abandoned for creating a new version of the Russian style with only medieval Russian forms after the reforms of Alexandr the Great, the ideal of the universal church in Russian philosophy was continued to associate with the architectural form of Hagia Sophia.

In the second half of the 19th century, with the formation of institutions such as the Palestinian Committee and the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society in the Russian Empire, travels to the Christian East became frequent. Many books were published about these travels under the name ‘Journey to the Holy Places of the East’. The journeys to the Holy places and written narratives seem to emerge the quest of the ideal church ideas within the great church of the Byzantine Empire ‘Hagia Sophia’. The concept of Sophia (Premudrost Bojia), which means the wisdom of God, was an ideal that included eternal love and divine truth with the triple union of the Mother of God and the Church. Moreover, Hagia Sophia, the first church dedicated to Sophia, ensured to take the name Hagia Sophia in the churches of the Russian Empire and proposed as a model for an ideal Orthodox church. According to the Russian philosophers, the tactable form of this ideal was Hagia Sophia as the common holy place of all Christianity and the synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem.

This study focuses on the observations of the Hagia Sophia of the poet and writer Andrei Nikolayevich Muravyov (1806-1874), Russian Parliament member V. P. Orlov-Davidov (1809-1882), military historian Dmitrii Antonovich Skalon (1840- 1919), Russian missionary Abbot Vasilii Yakovlev Mikhaylovskii (1834-1910) and Russian writer Yevgenii Markov (1835-1903). In this period, travels of the Russian nobility to the holy places can be seen not only as a pilgrimage but also as a secular experience. A. N. Muravyov (1768-1840) was the first laity person to travel to the ‘Holy Places’ in the first half of the 19th century without an official duty. The narrative of his journey emerges as a new type of literature, with its secular (expedition) and spiritual (pilgrimage) features. Muravyovs’ book became a guidebook and, narratives of spiritual and political travels or expeditions to the ‘Orthodox East’ seem to have followed this tradition. The impressions of selected travelers of this study represent this dual-language of religious and secular expression. Narratives of the travelers depicted Hagia Sophia as representing a spiritual element bearing the Orthodox spirit and ideal Orthodox church architecture. The idea of being in a holy place could be seen in the literary language and descriptions of the narratives of the travelers. Although the travelers mentioned in this study came to Istanbul with different motivations, it is possible to read the similarities in their impressions of Hagia Sophia. It was emphasized by travelers that the Ottoman mosques were built taking Hagia Sophia as a model. Travelers also stated that the Russians should shape the church architecture taking Hagia Sophia as a model like the Ottomans. The dome of Hagia Sophia is depicted with the metaphors of the ‘cover of heaven’ and the light coming from the windows around the dome with ‘light descending from heaven to spirit’. It can be seen that Russian architects did not copy the architecture of Hagia Sophia completely but, the spiritual essence of Hagia Sophia was incorporated into the Russian church architecture with Slavic traditions. The beauty of Hagia Sophia, located in the memories of Russian travelers, is associated with the Orthodox spirit, as well as the tectonic language of its architecture.

Ruslar, 10. yüzyılda Prens Vladimir’in (978-1015) vaftiz edilmesiyle resmi olarak doğu Hristiyanlığının bir parçası haline gelmişti. Bundan sonra da hem Bizans İmparatorluğu’nun hem de Orta çağ Hristiyan dünyasının başkenti İstanbul, Rus gezginlerin ve hacıların kutsal uğrak yeri haline gelir. Özellikle, 19. yüzyıla gelindiğinde farklı motivasyonlarla Ortodoks Doğuya ziyaretlerin sıklaştığı görülür. Bu ziyaretlerle ilgili ‘Doğu’nun kutsal yerlerine yolculuk’ konulu birçok kitap yayınlanmıştır. Tsargrad olarak adlandırdıkları Konstantinopolis, Rusların kimliklerini ve kültürlerini inşa ettikleri Ortodoksluğun kökeni olan Bizans İmparatorluğu’nun başkenti olması sebebiyle önemlidir. Bu dönemde hem felsefi-teolojik hem de bilimsel anlamda Slavlar ve Bizans arasında kurulmaya çalışılan ilişki, ortak kutsal Sophia (Premudrost’ Bojia) kavramı ve Ayasofya kilisesi ele alınarak evrensel kilise ve Hristiyanlık fikirleri ile birlikte teorik bilgisini oluşturmuş görünmektedir. Gezginlerin notlarında Bizans’ın yaratmış olduğu sanatsal dünya, Ortodoks inancının somutlaşmış hali olarak görülürken; Ayasofya, hem Ortodoks ruhunu içinde taşıyan tinsel bir öge, hem de ideal bir Ortodoks kilise mimarisini temsil eden bir imge olarak betimlenmektedir. Buçalışmada söz konusu dönemde şair ve yazar Andrey Nikolayeviç Muravyov (1806- 1874), Rusya İmparatorluğu özel meclis üyesi Vladimir Petroviç Orlov-Davıdov (1809- 1882), askeri tarihçi Dmitriy Antonoviç Skalon (1840-1919), Rus misyoner Başrahip Vasiliy Yakovleviç Mihaylovskiy (1834—1910) ve Rus yazar Yevgeniy Markov (1835- 1903) gibi Rus gezginlerinin kısa seçkisi yapılarak Ayasofya odaklı gözlemlerine yer verilmekte, yapının Rus kilise mimarisinin oluşumuna nasıl bir model olarak önerildiği ortaya konmaya çalışılmaktadır.