The next part of our tour of Trabzon takes us to Aya Sofya – the other one.

In 1204 the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople and a branch of the Byzantine Imperial family fled to Trabzon where they established themselves as ‘alternative Emperors’.

They continued to call themselves the rightful heirs to Eastern Rome for the next 257 years. The reality being that for much of that time they were vassals of various Turkish, Mongol and Georgian overlords.

However, they clearly needed an imperial church and Emperor Manuel I (1238 – 1263) built one which he named Aya Sofya like the one in Istanbul.

It is much smaller than its namesake, was converted into a mosque after 1261, abandoned some time in the 19th century and then used as a military hospital during World War 1.

In the 1960s restoration work took place which revealed a spectacular series of 13th century frescoes – 55 Biblical scenes in total – hidden under 400 years’ worth of whitewash and grime.

Aya Sofya, Trabzon 2010 www.fethiyetimes.com

Aya Sofya, Trabzon 2010 www.fethiyetimes.com

We are including photos of only two of the frescoes – to see the rest you’ll just have to visit Trabzon.

Aya Sofya is on a hill overlooking the sea some 3km from the centre of Trabzon and entry is a mere 4TL.

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