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  • Writer's pictureCARAVAN Arts

To Lift Our Spirits: Enriching Art

CARAVAN Board Member James Rawley shares his top pick.

Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, Hagia Sophia, 360-537, Ashlar, brick, 82m(L)x73m(W)x55m(H)

The original structure dates to the sixth century. For almost a millennium after its construction, it was the largest cathedral in all of Christendom. It served as a center of religious, political, and artistic life for the Byzantine world. It then became an important site of Muslim worship after Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453 and designated the structure a mosque. It remained a mosque until being converted into a museum in the 1930s.

The Hagia Sophia is a masterful fusion of East and West as well as a synthesis of monumentality and grace.

Following a court ruling, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Prayers will be held at the UNESCO World Heritage site on Friday, 24 July,2020.


James W. Rawley is an international development professional with over thirty years of experience with the United Nations on four continents in politically complex settings. He was most recently the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and UN Humanitarian and Development Coordinator for Palestine (Headquartered in Jerusalem).  Prior to his role in Jerusalem, he was based in Cairo for six years, as he headed up the UN’s work in Egypt, serving as Resident Representative for the UN Development Programme. He now teaches international peacebuilding at Columbia University.

He also previously served in a similar capacity in Yemen. Other extended assignments with the UN include: Myanmar (Burma); Nicaragua; Honduras; and El Salvador. He also served for shorter periods with UNDP in Geneva and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in New York. A native of New York, James completed his undergraduate studies at SUNY Buffalo and graduate work at Columbia University where he earned degrees in International Affairs and Urban Planning. He resides now on Long Island, NY. He is married to Maria and they have two sons. 


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