Sacred Spaces Special Exhibition Penn Museum

The splendor of Byzantine Christian art—preserved through the ages in early Christian churches in both Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and the Cappadocia region of Turkey—is the focus of this expanded, large-scale photography exhibition.


As capital of the Byzantine Empire, the ancient city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) held some of the most impressive churches in the Byzantine world. Photographer Ahmet Ertug, master of large-scale photography, documented two of the Empire’s most historic churches, the Hagia Sophia and the Church of Christ in the Chora Monastery.

About the Photographer

Internationally renowned photographer Ahmet Ertug, a 1974 graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, practiced architecture in England, Iran, and Turkey. His commitment to photography started with a year-long Japan Foundation Fellowship to study architecture in Japan, where he traveled extensively and photographed the ancient temples, Zen gardens, and festivals.

Returning to his native country and to Istanbul, Ertug came to a realization: "the foundation of creativity is the profound knowledge of one's heritage." He has photographed much of that city's impressive Byzantine, Ottoman, and Roman remains, using a large-format camera that has enabled him to capture their full splendor. In the 1980s, he established his own publishing house, producing 25 specially designed books of his photographs that are now recognized for their innovation in the printing industry.

His photographs have been exhibited widely around the world; a permanent exhibition of his Hagia Sophia photographs is on display in the upper gallery of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

The exhibition was originally organized by the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan. For the new installation, guest curator Dr. Robert Ousterhout, Professor of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania, provided new text, iconographic information, and regional photography.

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