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202

INTERIOR OF SANTA SOPHIA.

not the least part of this wonder is that the whole extent of the dome flashes on one at the first glance. One does not have to wait, as it is said people do, when they enter St. Peter's at Rome, to calculate the vastness; for there, I have heard it is not till

you

walk under the dome you see it to advantage. Standing on the threshold of Santa Sophia one sees the whole extent of the dome as well as the greater part of the interior at a glance.

Santa Sophia as a mosque possesses neither ornament nor decoration of any kind, save a number of immense green shields engraven in gold, with sentences from the Koran, which are hung upon the pillars covering the capitals; a number of silver lamps are also hung around. The Nimber and Mihrab or desk, from which the Koran is read, stands in that part which was once the chancel. Opposite to this a gilded throne for the Sultan; an old carpet hangs at the east end, its only value consisting in its having come from Mecca, and this is all.

HISTORY OF A MOSQUE.

203

Great care has the Mussulman taken to

hide every token of the former possessors of Santa Sophia ; the flooring is covered thickly with matting-plaster has hidden the mosaic walls and roof. A few Turks, both men and women, were prostrating themselves on the matting, and the monotonous howl in which they pray was echoed up to the gallery, sounding almost like the cry of evil spirits. The imaums in the gallery eagerly pressed us to buy some little bits of mosaic which they are always pulling down from the walls to sell.

And this was Santa Sophia in 1855, but thought would not rest here. This was no mosque like Sultan Achmet's, which one entered only to admire marble pillars and vast proportions. This was a Christian church, however desecrated. It was once the especial dwelling of the Lord of hosts, and memory carried one away into those far off years to trace the history of Santa Sophia,

204

VISIONS OF THE PAST.“

and treasure up its wondrous annals. We thought of its first building by Constantine, in 326. Although this building—which was supposed to be of wood-was destroyed by fire, the present church stands on the exact site of the ancient one, and in the gallery parts of the pillars of the first building have been used in constructing the second, so that all the memories which cling to the church built by Constantine attach themselves to the work of Justinian, and we gazed down from the gallery and tried to forget the present scene and the false worship while the visions of the past rose up before the mind's eye. To follow the whole of that long history would be impossible, but there are some scenes written indelibly upon

its

pages. Thought transports one back 1400

years. The vast church is filled with an eager multitude; the women's gallery is crowded with noble ladies : among them sits the Empress Eudoxia, in all her pomp. The sounds

ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM.

205

of Christian worship ring through those old walls; bishops, priests, and deacons stand around, and now rises one from amidst their number—a man whose pale face tells the tale of fast and vigil, and how in solitude he learned the secret of that wonderful eloquence which shall make the heart of that great multitude quiver as one man. Yes, there he stands upon the altar steps, a man low in stature but great in soul, the patriarch of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom.

And now he speaks, and awestruck they all listen to those words of fire. Are they words of burning warning that he is pouring forth, or are they those addresses of ardent love, in which he told them that he would lose his sight for their sakes, because sweeter to him than all the sights of this fair world was the salvation of their souls ?* and as he pauses there is a stir in the vast assembly. According to the custom of the age their ad

* Life of St. Chrysostom.

206

CHRYSOSTOM'S LIFE AND TIMES.

miration bursts forth—they wave their garments and plumes, lay hands upon their swords and shout, “Worthy the priesthood : thirteenth apostle, Christ hath sent thee.?*

But these sounds of praise-generally liked by the preachers of those days—had no effect on that stern spirit. He knew the world's applause was fleeting, and bids his hearers show, not by words of acclamation but by tears of penitence, that he had touched their hearts, and he judged well. Not long was Santa Sophia to be filled with admiring crowds, not long did the haughty empress listen to his fervid words—truth was not palatable to that luxurious court.

The scene is changed, no longer do they listen within the church and bend before the altar; they who had praised him rose up against him and drove him into exile. He crossed over to Asia, but his foes did not triumph long. A violent earthquake shook the city, and the affrighted people thought it was a

* 66 Characteristics of Men of Genius."

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