TURKEY – Istanbul, Hagia Sophia // From Russia With Love (1963)
A church, a mosque, a museum – and a Bond location. There are more than one good reasons to visit the Hagia Sophia, but we highly recommend the sunset atmosphere as number one!
Why Bond was here
Evil organization SPECTRE forged a plan to play off both James Bond (Sean Connery) and the Soviet KGB in the Middle Eastern gateway Istanbul. For this, they convince young Russian embassy employee Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) to help out Bond. They are about to meet in a pre-arranged rendezvous at the famous Hagia Sofia, where Romanova is supposed to hand out a floor plan of the Soviet consulate to 007 – alas, they are not the only agents in the field.
The scene had been filmed with a Hitchcock-like suspense, enriched by the cold and dark atmosphere of an almost empty Hagia Sophia. The more than 1000 years old building has a rich history as being a church turned mosque turned museum. Together with the neighboring Blue Mosque the Hagia Sophia – or Aya Sofya in Turkish – shapes the iconic skyline of Istanbul and forms the heart of touristic area Sultanahmet. Inside, huge plates are inscribed with the names of Allah, prophet Muhammed and his first successors. On the walls next to them, deesis mosaics from Jesus Christ remind of the Christian history of the building. Closest tram station is same-named “Sultanahmet”, roughly 200 meters up Divan Yolu street. The massive ochre Hagia Sophia with its slim minarets is hardly to miss.
Good to know
An entry ticket for the Hagia Sophia is 30 Turkish Lira. It opens daily at 9 am and closes at 5 pm in the winter months, and 7 pm in summer. Normally the halls are filled up with tour groups, so to experience the Bond atmosphere, one has to come quite early. On the other hand, the peaceful interior of the Hagia Sophia comes to life at its best close to sunset. Then, the late afternoon sun sends golden rays down the windows from the high cupola, painting little light spots on the Christian and Muslim icons displayed at the Hagia Sophia. Don’t miss the look at the Blue Mosque in the West from one of the windows in the upper floor.
The massive marble cube, Bond is hiding behind in the movie, is left from the main entry in the north east corner, close to “The Sweating Column”. Don’t confuse the cube with a second identical one in the north west corner. Bond then walks along underneath the northern gallery. For another From Russia With Love movie location, go to the right, when leaving the Hagia Sophia. Just across the streat is the Basilica Cistern, a former underground water reservoir and a perfect spy playground.
Take your time, when visiting the Hagia Sophia. Its atmosphere fully unfolds, once you don’t take notice of the tourist hordes anymore. Then, there is time to explore all the little religious reminiscences, that had been added over the centuries – be it depicted Christian angels at a ceiling or hidden Islamic graffiti at a column.
© 2015 Huntingbond (1,3), © 1963 Danjaq, LLC and United Artists Corporation (2)