Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Gunay presented to the press, the mosaic of Seraphim --a six-winged biblical angel-- which had been buried in the wall of Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) for 160 years.
Gunay who climbed up to the mosaic figure under restoration together with photo reporters and cameraman on a scaffold said "we ran into a new discovery that show the kind of hidden treasures Ayasofya houses."
Gunay said there were a total of four winged angel figures constructed somewhere between 900-300 A.D. depicting the four biblical angels that is believed to guard heaven.
"As Muslims, Christians and Jews: We hold beliefs that more or less descant from the same origins. Angels are sacred no matter which religion we believe in," said Gunay.
Experts have uncovered one of the four angel mosaics within the world-famous Ayasofya Museum in Istanbul after it had been hidden for 160 years behind plaster and a metal mask.
The mosaic, which measures 1.5 meters by 1 meter, was last seen by Swiss architect Gaspare Fossati, who headed restoration efforts at the museum between 1847 and 1849, and Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid. Experts were surprised to see that the mosaic, believed to date from the 14th century, was so well preserved.
Ayasofya, built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian between A.D. 532 and 537, was originally a basilica before it was converted into a mosque when Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1453. During the conversion process, the Ottomans covered the mosaics with plaster instead of removing them.
The building served as a mosque until 1934, when it was turned into a museum.
The uncovered mosaic is located in the pendentive, an arched triangular section supporting the building's huge dome. After 10 days of work on the area, experts removed several layers of plaster and the metal mask to uncover the angel.
The mosaic's true age will be assessed after an analysis by the Ayasofya Science Board compares it to similar mosaics. The six-winged figure is though to depict the seraphim, an angel described in the biblical book of Isaiah.