By Philip Chrysopoulos
BOSTON (Greek Reporter) — The mosaics of Hagia Sophia are world-renowned priceless artifacts not only of Greek Orthodoxy but also of Byzantine Civilization and Hellenism. What is lesser known is that the hagiographies inside the cathedral were restored by an American man before it was turned into a museum in 1935.
The name Thomas Whittemore may not mean much to many, but the American academic and amateur archaeologist and restoration expert is the man responsible for the restoration of the Byzantine mosaics that adorn Hagia Sophia.
While the fascinating mosaics were covered and uncovered multiple times throughout its 1,500-year history, their present state owes a great deal to Whittemore.
In 1930, Whittemore founded the Byzantine Institute and in 1931 took over the responsibility of recovering the mosaics of Hagia Sophia after receiving the approval of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, who turned Hagia Sophia into a museum four years later.
The arduous and painstaking work of restoring the historic Byzantine mosaics began in 1932 continued for about 18 years, long after the cathedral reopened as a museum.