The Trabzon Ayasofya Church, which is a monastery church, is constructed between 1238 – 1263 at the time of the King Manuel, who is one of the important kings of the Trabzon Kommenos Empire. It is at the western side of the Bell Tower Church and it was built in 1427. A chapel ruin with three abscissae, which is at the northern side of the church must belong to an earlier period. When Trabzon was conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the building was converted into a mosque and became a foundation work. Between 1958 – 1962, with the proposal of the General Directorate of Foundations and as the result of the same general directorate and the Edinburgh University in England, it has been restored and after 1964, it was converted into a museum.
The Architecture: The main plan has a square – cross shape and is a good example of the Late Byzantine Churches, which are characterized by a high central dome. The church having a nartex has three naves. Naves end with an abscissa. The ones on the sides are circular and the one in the middle has five corners. There is a chapel in the nartex. It has three entrances with porches being in the northern, western and southern directions. At the ground floor of the southern side of the nartex, there are graves on the left and the right sides. A dome and its rim have 12 corners. The weight of the dome is carried by 4 monoblock marble column arches, with the help of pandantives. The columns are probably brought from Marmara. The church is surrounded by various vaults, the roof is given different heights and covered with tiles. The stone workmanship of the building is of the first class.
The Ornamenting: The effects of the Seljuk – Islam art are seen in the external stone – ornamenting, as well as the Byzantine art. Especially the boxes of niches on each side of the western part and column heads have an Islamic character. Geometric shaped medals, which are positioned on the northern side, frontal and panels-on each side. It is a model of the 13th century Seljuk ornamenting. This shows us that during the construction of the building the guest Turkish masters have worked here. The southern side is undoubtedly the most magnificent part of the museum. Here, the creation of the human being is in the form of a fritz relief. The event is told from right to left in this fritz: the creation of Adam and Eve, the Adam’s receiving of the apple from Eve, the trees symbolizing the heaven, an angel’s ordering at the door of the heaven, the rejection from the heaven, the penitence, the killing of Abel by Cain. On the lock stone showing the northern side, there is a one – headed eagle motif, which is the symbol of the Kommenos which prevailed 257 years in Trabzon. A similar eagle depiction also can also be found outside the main abscissa. At this side, two imaginary creatures (Kentauros and griffon) are pictured on the frontal near the column heads; at the top: two pigeons standing back to back; on the right and the left parts: two panels full of circles can be seen; and there is a crescent in the centre of the left side panel and a star in the centre of the other one. The panels full with plant ornaments, which are in the corners of two sides of the front carry the characteristics of the Seljuk art. The several stepped molding, starting from the northern side, goes around the walls in the mid section.
In the internal side, on the nao of the church, the section under the main dome, mosaic made of several colors of marble in the opus sectile style is found. This mosaic must belong to the years after the construction of the museum.
The Frescos: They form the most important part of the ornamenting and depict the topics taken from the New Testament. The main depiction is the pantocrator Christ on the dome. An inscription arch is seen under it. There is an angel fritz under this arch. The depictions of 12 disciples are presented on the windows. The students of Christ are seen at the windows. There are various compositions in the pandatives.
The birth of Christ on the north-western side, his death on the cross on the northeastern side, the coming down of Christ to the heaven-on the south-eastern side, the baptism of Christ-on the south-western side are depicted. In circular medals on four main arches, portraits are placed. On the vault that is in the west of the main place, the dinner of Christ with his friends and the washing of his feet are seen, while in the north, the scene of “the throes of death in the garden” is located. The three medals in the vault of the southern nave comprise the child Christ and the two saints. The birth of Mary and her introduction to the temple takes place on the northern wall of the southern neph. In the abscissa, Mary is seen with Christ in her arms and there are two big angels near them. In this vault, Christ raising to the sky, the committee of disciples in the southeast (Christ orders them to spread the religion), Christ with his friends on the north, the miracle of fishing are shown at the bottom.
Four saints are seen on the door of the northern wall. In the east of this wall, at the top, some scenes like the murder of Saint Zahara are located. The frescos of nartex have reached today in a better condition. These are similar to the frescos of Kariye Museum in İstanbul. There are four symbols representing the writers of the New Testament in the centre of the nartex. Some scenes such as the meeting with the scientists at the temple of Jerusalem, the baptism, and the opening of the eyes of the blind man are depicted on the southern side; the scenes such as Christ’s converting the wine into water are depicted on the western wall. In the northern section some miracles such as bread and fish are depicted. There are frescos in the form of ruins on the vaults constituting the main entrances.
The Ayasofya Church is a well – protected monumental museum adjoining many properties such as having a central plan, a rimmed dome, circular and polygonal shaped abscissa portics, stone ornaments and frescos.
The Village House Exhibition
The Village house exhibition formed as the result of the evaluation of the local possibilities and with the support of the governor, on an area of 900 m², which was nationalized at the end of 1993 and added to the museum area, was opened to the public in May of 1996.
The purpose of the exhibition is to protect some of our values belonging to the public culture, which are disappearing day by day and to give a little cross – section of the village life to the visitors of the museum.
The serander in this area is received from Yukarı Kışlacık Village by donation. Its parts were numbered and disassembled and then re – constructed under the supervision of an 85 year old serander master. This portable building, which is also called as “Serendi” and “tekir”, is used for drying and preserving grain and it has a very special place in the eastern Black Sea folk architecture. The serander having dimensions of 3.90 x 3.30 m, is made of the chestnut tree with an interlocking technique onto the six wooden feet. Headings with spherical, sloped, polished surfaces are used at the transition points from the bearer feet to the body. The headings, which are sometimes made of stone, prevent the entrance of the rats. As in the case of this example, seranders do not have a fixed step system and utilization is provided by portable steps. The warehouse is entered through the door. The balcony surrounded with railings is used for the materials, which must be protected entirely in open- air conditions. In the other section there are narrow ventilating spaces. These spaces are made in obvious forms and gratings, which have workmanship. The roof, which has wide and overflowing fringe, is covered with domestic tiles. Geometric simple ornaments are made around the door in the form of an arch winding the three edges with carving technique, based on ornamented specimens. The belts of iron doors are the products of a workmanship carried out in traditional style in compliance with the old examples.
The village house established in a portable manner near the serander is small – scaled and single – floored. For this purpose, an example selected among the old dwellings in the Yukarı Aksu Village of the Sürmene District of our province was taken as the basis.
In the construction of traditional style buildings, the masters, who know the old construction technique, are employed. Two of the parts made of chest nut three with interlocking technique have an empty amulet shaped eye and the others are in the form of an amulet eye filled with stone and soil. The roof is four shouldered and fringed and is covered with tiles.
The surface of the building consisting of a kitchen, a cookshop and two rooms is made of compressed soil as in the most specific examples. There is no ceiling coating in this part of the building and a chain is hanged over the oven standing on the ground in the middle and on the surfaces of the beams. The level of the rooms is higher than the level of the kitchen, whereas the pavement and the ceiling is covered with wood. In all doors and windows and also in lock systems, the old examples have been complied with.
The interior decoration of the house is done using the specific furniture either from the museum’s warehouse or newly collected, in the light of the information obtained from many villages. In the kitchen, there is a cauldron hanged with a chain over the oven, in one corner a cupboard which has copper plates in it, a table carved in a single – bodied tree and similar styled wooden throughs in various dimensions, flour chests, sieves made of intestines and leather fibers hanged on the walls, a “muddy churn” and hand mills in different sizes.
In one of the rooms, a small shawl and a cotton loom is exhibited in operating condition, together with other weaving tools. Among the weaving tools, ornamented wooden spindles, a shuttle and weaving blades are worth mentioning. The other room is designed as a bride bedroom. A wooden cradle and a cotton woven cradle cloth, examples of ornamented trousseau chests, clothes and other bedroom accessories are here.
In the garden of the building, corn and cabbage which are vegetables special to the Black Sea region are grown forming a small field surrounded with a fence. In a separate area, a corn warehouse made of komar bars, a gazal basket, a stone mortar and a sharpening stone are located near the serander.