Few today spend long thinking about the vagina of the Virgin Mary. Which is a pity. Because the Virgin Mary’s vagina might help us better understand not only what is going on in an ancient church in Istanbul but also what is going on elsewhere in Turkey, and in Bristol and in Oriel College, Oxford, and in Canada, and anywhere else that anger is rising and statues are falling and history is being held to account.
But first back to that church in Istanbul. Unless you’ve been to Istanbul you may not have heard of the Kariye Museum. But it is glorious. This ancient church – converted into a museum decades ago – looks a bit unprepossessing at first. Outside it looks like a bunker. But inside it takes your breath away. For here you will find heaven held in beaten gold and ancient ages stilled on its ceiling. The blue and red and gold mosaics that cover this church from top to toe are some of the oldest still surviving from Byzantium – and arguably the most beautiful.
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