“Sacred Spaces: The Photography of Ahmet Ertug” at the 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 large-scale photography exhibition. Sacred Spaces: The Photography of Ahmet Ertug, a two-part exhibition fittingly presented under the vaulted ceilings of the Museum’s first floor Merle-Smith Galleries, features 26 works by innovative, acclaimed Turkish photographer Ahmet Ertug. Through his lens and with his exceptionally large-scale prints, Ertug captures the grandeur of the ancient Byzantine churches, all designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, in crisp, bright, detailed photographs. A digital-screen slide show of exterior images of the churches, and an interactive kiosk where visitors can explore the rich iconography depicted in Ertug’s photographs, enhance the exhibition.

In Vaults of Heaven: Visions of Byzantium, Ertug documents the interiors of three churches—the Karankik Kilise (Dark Church), the New Church of Tokali (Buckle Church), and the Meryem Ana Kilisesi (Church of the Mother of God)—all more than 900 years old. The photographs include close-up views of elaborate wall paintings depicting classic Christian scenes from the life of Christ and images of saints. Also included are images revealing the dramatic interior architecture of these churches, places that have inspired, and continue to inspire, generations of worshippers and admirers. Heaven on Earth: Churches of Constantinople moves viewers from countryside to the heart of ancient Byzantine power. The exhibition features glorious photographs of the interiors of the most famous churches in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey): the grand, legendary Hagia Sophia and the smaller Church of Christ at the Chora Monastery.

This long-term Exhibition at the Penn Museum opens April 12, 2014.