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Little Hagia Sophia is a small church in Istanbul located close to the famous and large Hagia Sophia. It was built around the same time and is said to have contained very beautiful mosaics.

At the time of Turkish conquest of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque and the mosaics were plastered over due to the prohibition of religious icons in Islam. Similar fate befell Little Hagia Sophia about 50 years later. Fast forward to today, the church's dome and interior is still plastered. I could not find anywhere whether the mosaics underneath are still preserved waiting to be uncovered, or have they been removed entirely?

(Interestingly, there is a church in Ravenna with the same layout and possibly the same mosaics, also built during the reign of Justinian).

Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Hagia_Sophia

  • I believe the Little Hagia Sophia was built before The Hagia Sophia. If my memory is correct, the Little Hagia Sophia was built around or shortly after the age of Constantine-(approximately 200 years before Justinian commissioned the building of The Hagia Sophia). I am not entirely certain of the chronology, though I am still pretty sure that The Little Hagia Sophia, was an earlier Church. – user26763 Nov 19 '17 at 2:13
  • For a short period, Ravenna was known as, "The Byzantium of the West." The San Vitale Cathedral in Ravenna, though not necessarily as spectacular as The Hagia Sophia, was a smaller and albeit slightly more Westernized version of The Hagia Sophia. And though not as architecturally or artistically impressive as The Hagia Sophia, it still has its own architectural and artistic aesthetic that is also quite impressive. – user26763 Nov 19 '17 at 2:36
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Originally the mosaics probably survived, Fergusson writing:

The frescoes and mosaics have, indeed disappeared from the body of the church, hidden, it is to be hoped, under the mass of whitewash which covers its walls--in the narthex they can still be distinguished.

A History of Architecture in All Countries by James Fergusson (1874), p.442.

However, during the Russo-Turkish war (1875-1877) the building was used to house Bulgarian refugees and became a ruin during which time the roof was not maintained and heavy water damage to the ceiling artwork occurred. Also, the refugees and other vagrants vandalized the interior. During restoration in the 1890s, additional removal of artwork, some of which was heavily damaged, occurred.

It is likely that at least some limited amount of the artwork remains in particular areas under the plaster.

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