In the 9th and 10th centuries, the Varangians were Scandinavians who migrated eastwards and southwards through what is now Russia and Ukraine. These traders, pirates and mercenaries followed the river systems and portages of Gardariki to the Caspian Sea and Constantinople.
The Varangians who were primarily from Sweden settled along the trading routes and exacted tribute from the Slavs and Fins where they were known as the Rus. They used the Volga River trade route to travel to Greece and the Middle East.
Under the rule of the Rus, the slave trade flourished. The tribes along the river and captives from tribal warfare provided a stead supply of slaves for the southern markets in Constantinople and the Muslim areas. During the eastward expansion of the Germans in the 10th century so many Slavs were captured that their racial name becomes the generic term for a ‘slave.’ The collar which was placed around the slaves’ necks is of Viking origin. The collars were attached to a chain to confine or transport the slaves. Tomorrow, Slavery in the Middle East. Rita Bay
The Hagia Sophia, an Orthodox basilica turned mosque turned museum located in Istanbul, Turkey is a Runner-Up for New Wonders of the World. The current building is the third church built on the site. The first church was dedicated in 360. It and the second church were destroyed by fire. In 532, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I began construction of a new church. He commissioned Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles as architects to build the “Church of the Holy Wisdom.”
The Original Church
The Hagia Sofia which for a thousand years the largest cathedral in the world is famous for its dome and the magnificent mosaics which were completed after the church was dedicated. The dome was damaged by several earthquakes and fires which required extensive restorations. Materials were brought from all over the Byzantine empire.
Prior to 1453, the Hagia Sophia served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople (the old name for Istanbul) or a Roman Catholic Cathedral (from 1204 – 1261). When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the building was desecrated and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the church converted into a mosque. The mosaics were plastered over and the bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed and with replaced with Islamic items. Over the centuries, the Sultans maintained the structure and constructed to the exterior and interior architecture and decoration. In 1935, it was converted to a museum by the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Extensive renovations continue as the building is assaulted by water from above (roof leaks) and below (ground water incursion) and general age.
Tomorrow, Kiyomizu-dera Rita Bay