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A Viking inscription in “Saint Sofia” deciphered

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“Hagia Sophia” in Istanbul hides an unusual inscription. It is carved on the marble parapet of the second floor. There are few tour guides who show it to visitors.

In fact, 10 centuries ago, a Viking commander left his mark in the largest Christian church, scrawling on the stone: “Halfdan was here.”

For years, Selcuk Erachun – a researcher, writer and professional guide – studied the runes and discovered that next to the inscription there was also a time-worn image of a Viking ship with a dragon’s head on the bow.

  “During my work in Hagia Sophia, I found that the inscription belonged to a Viking general. I found an image of a ship on the marble and once I did, I easily deciphered the rest. It turned out that the inscription is 1 meter long and its authors are probably people of Scandinavian origin who came during the Golden Age of Constantinople between the 9th and 11th centuries and left their mark,” the scientist told Daily Sabah.

As is known from history, the so-called A Varangian detachment was the elite guard of the Constantinople Vasilevsi in the 9th-10th centuries. The Varangians came down from the north – from the lands of today’s Sweden and Norway – to fight, plunder and trade. During the turbulent centuries, these professional assassins were the most loyal bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors.

“By origin, the Varangians are Vikings. Interestingly, they choose Christianity as their religion. In addition to the inscription, there is a drawing of a Viking ship that caught our attention. Our detailed study showed that shields were also painted on it,” the scientist continued.

Apart from the runes, one of the mysteries of Hagia Sophia is the talismans engraved on its columns to protect the sanctuary from floods, earthquakes and enemy invasions. The meaning of some of them has not yet been deciphered.

For example, in the interior of Hagia Sophia, 16 motifs with dolphins and an image of the god Poseidon are visible. The explanation for them is that recycled materials brought from all over the empire were used for the construction of the magnificent temple by order of Justinian.

Legends say that the middle ceremonial gate to the interior of Hagia Sophia – the so-called Imperial Gate, was carved from the remains of Noah’s Ark from Mount Ararat, which is considered sacred.

A column on the first floor of the temple is considered an important religious relic for both Christians and Muslims. They believe in its miraculous power, put their finger in it and wish for luck. One legend says that the tears of the Virgin Mary, shed after the death of Jesus, pierced the column, which was later brought and placed in the holy temple. Another – that the prophet Khidr inserted his finger into it and turned the church towards the Kaaba in the Holy Mosque in Mecca.

Christians believe that parts of the cross and the nails from the body of the crucified Christ, brought from Jerusalem, are hidden in Hagia Sophia. According to legend, the temple will be the place where Jesus Christ will come to Earth again.

“All these legends keep the historic buildings alive. If today the eyes of the people of the world are directed towards Hagia Sophia, it is definitely due to the stories about its secrets”, summarizes Selcuk Erachun.

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