The single headed eagle looking east is the state symbol of the Comnenus family, the builder being Manuel I. While, being identified as the Byzantine empire, they were closer to the Georgian kingdom and they were under the patronage of Queen Tamar of Georgia. Until I started my trips to Turkey I never knew the complexities of the later Byzantine Empire and much less know about the Kingdom of Georgia or the Kingdom of Armenia. It is all so fascinating. I never knew I would visit Trabzon. I was thumbing through a flight magazine of Sun Express while flying from Izmir to Kayseri last September, there was an article on the Aya Sofya and the frescoes were so intriguing that I had to visit. Here I was, a few months later, viewing in person, the same frescoes.
While the friezes are spectacular, they are very typical of old Georgian and Armenian churches. For some reason these people are master stone carvers. These friezes tell the creation story though one can't tell from these pictures.