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Atlas Obscura Viking Runes at Hagia Sophia

On a balmy Thracian Sunday some 1,100 years ago, during a liturgy given in the massive basilica of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, possibly during the solemn, laborious prayer of the Anaphora, a bored soldier carved his name into the white marble parapet that surrounds the balcony of the church’s upper gallery.

The letters he carved, however, weren’t Greek; this wasn’t a native warrior, but a Viking mercenary from the Scandinavian lands of the north. His runic inscription is still visible today. They read, approximately, “Halfdan carved these runes,” or “Halfdan was here,” a familiar sentiment shared by crude etchings across the millennia. A transparent plastic slab protects the inscription, which can be found in the gallery on the second floor of the basilica.

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