Hagia Sophia in Iznik Was the Scene of Two Council of Nicea Meetings:
From Bursa, we had an 80 km drive northeast to Iznik or Nicea (Nicaea), as it was known in ancient times. Nicea was once the capital of the Byzantine Empire and there are a number of reminders of its past glory in this town. But our visit today was only to see the Hagia Sophia Church (Aya Sofya) , one of the town’s oldest monuments. Hagia Sophia is significant because this was where the Nicene Creed was created.
Iznik’s Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) is located at the intersection of Iznik’s two main streets, Atatürk Caddesi and Kiliçaslan Caddesi. This rectangular, red brick building was built in typical Byzantine style, but Aya Sofya Iznik is much smaller and is no where as grand in features as its namesake in Istanbul. However, in terms of historical significance, it is as important as the Hagia Sophia in Instanbul, if not more, as Nicaea was the site where two Ecumenical Councils of Christianity (Council of Nicea) took place and where the Nicene Creed was produced.
Aya Sofya was converted into a mosque in Ottoman period by Orhan Ghazi and Aya Sofya became the Orhan Mosque. Extensive modifications were also made to the building during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent.
The sections that are worth seeing in Aya Sofya, and which we’ve photographed in our Iznik album, include:
- Remains of the fine mosaic floor
- A deësis (fresco showing Christ, the Virgin and John the Baptist) which is protected behind a glass screen. This is near the floor level and you’ll see Tony sitting on the floor to take a shot
- the Synthronon in the apse of the church
- the prayer niche of the mosque
- the minaret
When we visited Hagia Sophia church in August 2011, it was functioning as the Ayasofya Muzesi, as the brown tourist attraction sign shows. There is some talk of Ayasofya being re-dedicated as a mosque, much to the dismay of architectural conservationists and tourism professionals.