Cultural Heritage, Stories

Hagia Sophia – the Hidden Treasure (Part 1)

poszukiwanie skarbu

‘So this is the Hagia Sophia…’ said Tola with awe. ‘It’s much bigger than I thought… how do we find our treasure there?’

Yes, treasure, you’ve heard it right. Only half an hour before none of the animals had thought that on the very same day they would travel to Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey, holding a map and a key for a hidden treasure.

But how did it start?

That morning, as on every Friday, Rascal and Pola came to meet Tola in order to play football together. The kitten had some work to finish but impatient Rascal started to practice football tricks in her living room. If Rascal hadn´t, by chance, kicked the ball more powerfully than he intended it is almost certain that the kitten wouldn’t have discovered any treasure for many more years. The ball fell under the table and hit the baseboard so hard that a large crack appeared in it; after which, a part of the baseboard fell off the wall. The doggy wanted to fix it immediately but, to his surprise, he spotted that there was something behind the rotten board… a huge hole. And a big leather sack was hidden inside…

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In the sack, Rascal found a big stone resembling marble and a rolled piece of parchment. There was a big temple and a map drawn on one side of the parchment. On the other side, there was an inscription – some kind of a clue written in a language Rascal could not recognise. Hoping that Tola would understand it, he quickly gave her the paper with the message to read.

Her dileği yerine getiren sutün altından
Başparmağın değil, tavandaki en yakın melek bu haritayı tamamlayacak;
Meleğin altında dur. Fakat olağanüstü bir şeyi bekleme
Taşı yeraltı dehlizi acan anahtara dönüştür

Hm… if I remember Turkish well, this means…’

By the column that makes the sweetest dreams come true,

The angel in heaven will complete the map for you,

Hide beneath his wings, but don’t wait for any miraculous scene,

Out of stone make the key to corridors hidden below what is seen.

‘Signed by Aramir,’ Tola read calmly. ‘There’s also the year, 1920.’

‘Wow, this is a treasure map!’ called Rascal, tearing the paper out of Tola’s hand.

‘But before we find the treasure, we need to know where are these angels and columns…’ Pola pointed out. ‘And first of all, we need to know where this building is located…’ she added.

‘Oh come on! It’s clearly Hagia Sophia!’ answered Tola carelessly.

Hagia… what?’ asked the other two.

Hagia Sophia is probably the greatest example of Byzantine architecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,’ Tola explained.

‘Tola, where did you learn this?’ asked Rascal, surprised by his friend’s knowledge. ‘Are you sure it’s the Hagia Sophia? Maybe it’s a different building, for example from here, from Podlasie?’

‘Of course I’m sure!’ cried Tola, a little upset. ‘I can tell from the minarets.’

‘Min… min… what?’ Rascal tried to repeat after Tola.

‘Minarets.’ Tola laughed when she realised that Rascal didn’t know this word. ‘Rascal, you sometimes assist me when I go to mosque, you must have seen the minarets, they are built next to all mosques. Minarets are very important towers, used by imams to call to prayer five times during a day.

Oh, yes, I remember now,’ admitted Rascal and recalled that the imam often wakes him up at 5 a.m. calling to prayer. ‘But how do you know that this is Hagia Sophia? I bet many mosques look similar.’

Hmm… this may sound weird but before she died, my mum had always told me that everyone from our family should know how Hagia Sophia looks like. She had showed me photos of this building many, many times…’

‘Tola, you’re right!’ cried delighted Pola. ‘I remember that I saw photos of it during Mr Grozek’s lessons. It once was the biggest Christian temple, the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Later on, it was transformed into a mosque and now it’s probably the biggest museum in Istanbul!’ she cried excited. ‘Tola, Rascal, let’s go!’ she added, not waiting for their reply.

She took her compass out of the pocket and after giving Rascal the big piece of marble from the sack, she recited the magical formula.

All that is good, all that is new, take us away, show us the truth. Take us to the capital city of Turkey.


The world whirled around them and after a while, friends found themselves right in front of the famous building.

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‘So this is the Hagia Sophia…’ said Tola with awe. ‘It’s much bigger than I thought… how do we find our treasure there?’

‘If anybody can find it, it’s us,’ answered Pola cheerfully.

‘Hey, Tola, can you read the beginning of the clue again?’ suggested Rascal. ‘Maybe we’ll figure out something.’

By the column that makes the sweetest dreams come true,

The angel in heaven will complete the map for you…

‘First, we need to find the column that makes wishes come true and this won’t be that easy…’ The doggy got upset. ‘Look how many columns are there! Taking a closer look at each and every one of them will take days.’

‘Maybe there’s a legend behind this column?’ Tola said to herself.

‘I know!’ the owl cried suddenly. ‘Do you remember what Mr Grozek told us during our art history class? There’s a column in the temple which is called the weeping column. Do you remember? Legend has it, that when you place your thumb on the column, make a circle with your other fingers, and if the thumb becomes wet, your wish will come true. It’s easy, we need to find this column!’ she called, proud that she was able to recall something that she had learnt at school a long time ago.

poszukiwanie skarbu

After several minutes, the friends went inside the temple.

‘Let’s look around here before we start looking for the treasure,’ suggested Rascal. ‘Pretend we are not searching for anything and that we’re just normal tourists admiring frescoes and mosaics. And by the way, keep looking for the pillar with a hole in it…’

Tola and Pola started to walk around the temple, looking at the walls, the floor and the dome. It turned out that the inside of the building, listed as a UNESCO monument, was as spectacular as its façade. The whole temple was covered with mosaics depicting saints, angels, Jesus, Mary, and figures of tsars. Mosaics must have been damaged because parts of them were covered with plaster. Only few mosaics were complete…

‘The stone we’ve found surely comes from here…’ said Tola. ‘Hmm. But how do we find the key to the treasure?’ She suddenly got upset. ‘There are so many mosaics composed of tiny fragments of stone, that it will be really hard to find the place where our stone will fit…’

‘Well… we need to find the right angel, that’s it…’ answered Rascal hesitantly.

After a while, Rascal called his two friends. He found the weeping column and, as it turned out, more people than the three friends wanted to touch it. Several tourists were standing in a queue, waiting for their turn. The friends had to wait a few minutes before they got to the column.

Tola climbed on Rascal’s shoulders and placed her paw in the hole. Then, she cried out:

‘My paw is wet! The wish will come true!’ She looked at her wet thumb.

‘Now we have to find the nearest angel. Maybe a part of the map is drawn on it…’ said Pola hesitantly and started to recite the clue.

By the column that makes the sweetest dreams come true,

The angel in heaven will complete the map for you,

Hide beneath his wings, but don’t wait for any miraculous scene,

Out of stone make the key to corridors hidden below what is seen.

The animals looked around. There were lots of frescos and mosaics depicting various figures but they didn’t see any angel.

‘Move away, please!’ a caracal suddenly called to them. He was a wild, black cat who worked in the museum as a guard.

Rascal was so absorbed in looking for the angel that he jumped back in surprise!

‘Oh… yes… right away… eh… we’re just…’ Rascal didn’t manage to come up with any answer, because Tola, totally unexpectedly, took out the chunk of marble that was hidden in the sack and said to the caracal:

‘We’re just looking for the place where this stone comes from,’ she said, showing the piece of marble to the guard.

‘Tola!’ yelled Rascal and Pola, both scared. Unfortunately, it was too late.

‘This piece of marble? Is it from here?’ asked the guardian sternly.

‘Well, yeah…’ answered Tola carelessly, but immediately afterwards she realised that she had made a big mistake.

‘Where did you get it from?’ the cat raised his voice. ‘Tampering with the mosaics in the museum is illegal! Who gave you this?’ Without waiting for their answer, the caracal took his two-way radio and called other guards for help.

‘It’s Caracal. I have some tourists here with a chunk of marble. I think it’s a stolen part of a mosaic. I need help.’

Rascal, without thinking too much, grabbed Tola’s paw and pulled her towards him.

‘Take to your heels! Run!’ he called.