Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have "changed the history of architecture."It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the previous two having both been destroyed by rioters. It was designed by the Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician.
The church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 49-foot (15 m) silver iconostasis. It was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years. It is the church in which Cardinal Humbert in 1054 excommunicated Michael I Cerularius – which is commonly considered the start of the Great Schism.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who subsequently ordered the building converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed and many of the mosaics were plastered over. Islamic features – such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets – were added while in the possession of the Ottomans. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey.
For almost 500 years the principal mosque of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia served as a model for many other Ottoman mosques, such as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque of Istanbul), the Şehzade Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque and the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque.
Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Of great artistic value was its decorated interior with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. The temple itself was so richly and artistically decorated that Justinian proclaimed, "Solomon, I have outdone thee!" (Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών). Justinian himself had overseen the completion of the greatest cathedral ever built up to that time, and it was to remain the largest cathedral for 1,000 years up until the completion of the cathedral in Seville in Spain.
Justinian's basilica was at once the culminating architectural achievement of late antiquity and the first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Its influence, both architecturally and liturgically, was widespread and enduring in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim worlds alike. The largest columns are of granite, about 19 or 20 metres high and at least 1.5 metres in diameter; the largest weigh well over 70 tons apiece. Under Justinian's orders, eight Corinthian columns were disassembled from Baalbek, Lebanon and shipped to Constantinople for the construction of Hagia Sophia.
The vast interior has a complex structure. The nave is covered by a central dome which at its maximum is 55.6 m (182 ft 5 in) from floor level and rests on an arcade of 40 arched windows. Repairs to its structure have left the dome somewhat elliptical – with the diameter varying between 31.24 m (102 ft 6 in) and 30.86 m (101 ft 3 in).
At the western entrance side and eastern liturgical side, there are arched openings extended by half domes of identical diameter to the central dome, carried on smaller semi-domed exedras; a hierarchy of dome-headed elements built up to create a vast oblong interior crowned by the central dome, with a clear span of 76.2 m (250 ft 0 in).
Interior surfaces are sheathed with polychrome marbles, green and white with purple porphyry, and gold mosaics.
The exterior, clad in stucco, was tinted yellow and red during restorations in the 19th century at the direction of the Fossati architects.
The dome of Hagia Sophia is carried on four concave triangular pendentives, a form which was first fully realized in this building. The pendentives serve to transition from the circular base of the dome to the rectangular base below. These were reinforced with buttresses during Ottoman times, under the guidance of the architect Mimar Sinan. The weight of the dome remained a problem for most of the building's existence. The original dome collapsed entirely in 558; in 563 a new dome was built which included ribbing and was slightly taller than the original. Larger section of the second dome collapsed as well, in two portions. The present dome consists of two sections at the north and south that date from the 562 reconstruction. The north section covers an area of 8 ribs of the whole dome’s 40, while the south section includes 6 ribs.
The dome has spurred particular interest for many art historians, architects and engineers because of the innovative way the original architects envisioned the dome. The dome is supported by pendentives, which not only restrain the lateral forces of the dome and allow its weight to flow downwards, but also achieve a pleasing aesthetic quality by enabling the dome to transition gracefully into the square shape of the space below.
Although this design stabilizes the dome and the surrounding walls and arches, the actual construction of the walls of Hagia Sophia weakened the overall structure. The bricklayers used more mortar than brick, which weakened the walls. The structure would have been more stable if the builders at least let the mortar cure before they began the next layer; however, they did not do this. When the dome was placed atop the building, the weight of the dome caused the walls to lean outward because of the wet mortar underneath. When Isidorus the Younger rebuilt the original dome, he had to first build up the interior of the walls so that they were vertical in order to support the weight of the new dome. Additionally, Isidore the Younger raised the height of the rebuilt dome by approximately six metres so that the lateral forces would not be as strong and the weight of the dome would flow more easily down into the walls.
Another interesting fact about the original structure of the dome was how the architects were able to place forty windows around the base of the dome. Hagia Sophia is famous for the mystical quality of light that reflects everywhere in the interior of the nave, which gives the dome the appearance of hovering above the nave. This design is possible because the dome is shaped like a scalloped shell or the inside of an umbrella with ribs that extend from the top of the dome down to the base. These ribs allow the weight of the dome to flow between the windows, down the pendentives, and ultimately to the foundation.
The unique character of the design of Hagia Sophia shows how this structure is one of the most advanced and ambitious monuments of late antiquity.
Two huge marble lustration urns were brought from Pergamon during the reign of Sultan Murad III. Originally from the Hellenistic period, they are carved from single blocks of marble.
Nartex and Portals
The Imperial Gate was the main entrance between the exo- and esonarthex. It was reserved only for the emperor. The Byzantine mosaic above the portal depicts Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise.
A long ramp from the northern part of the outer narthex leads up to the upper gallery
The upper gallery is laid out in a horseshoe shape that encloses the nave until the apse. Several mosaics are preserved in the upper gallery, an area traditionally reserved for the empress and her court. The best-preserved mosaics are located in the southern part of the gallery
Loge of the Empress
throne of the empress stood.
synods, they entered and left the meeting chamber through this door.
Originally, under Justinian's reign, the interior decorations consisted of abstract designs of the marble slabs on the walls and mosaics on the curving vaults. Of these, one can still see the two archangels Gabriel and Michael in the spandrels of the bema. There were already a few figurative decorations, as attested by the eulogy of Paul the Silentiary. The spandrels of the gallery are revetted in opus sectile, showing patterns and figures of flowers and birds in precisely cut pieces of white marble set against a background of black marble. In later stages figurative mosaics were added, which were destroyed during the iconoclastic controversy (726–843). Present mosaics are from the post-iconoclastic period. The number of treasures, relics and miracle-working, painted icons of the Hagia Sophia grew progressively richer into an amazing collection. Apart from the mosaics, a large number of figurative decorations were added during the second half of the 9th century: an image of Christ in the central dome; Orthodox saints, prophets and Church Fathers in the tympana below; historical figures connected with this church, such as Patriarch Ignatius; some scenes from the gospel in the galleries. Basil II let paint on each of the four pendentives a giant six-winged Cherub. The Ottomans covered their face with a golden halo, but in 2009 one of them has been restored to the original state.
The church was richly decorated with mosaics throughout the centuries. They either depicted the Virgin Mother, Jesus, saints, or emperors and empresses. Other parts were decorated in a purely decorative style with geometric patterns.
During the Sack of Constantinople in 1204, the Latin Crusaders vandalized valuable items in every important Byzantine structure of the city, including the golden mosaics of the Hagia Sophia. Many of these items were shipped to Venice, whose Doge, Enrico Dandolo, had organized the invasion and sack of Constantinople.
Following the building's conversion into a mosque in 1453, many of its mosaics were covered with plaster, due to Islam's ban on representational imagery. This process was not completed at once, and reports exist from the 17th century in which travellers note that they could still see Christian images in the former church. In 1847–49, the building was restored by two Swiss Italian brothers, Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati, and Sultan Abdülmecid allowed them to also document any mosaics they might discover during this process. This work did not include repairing the mosaics and after recording the details about an image, the Fossatis painted it over again. This work included covering the previously uncovered faces of two seraphim mosaics located in the centre of the building. The building currently features a total of four of these images and two of them are restorations in paint created by the Fossatis to replace two images of which they could find no surviving remains. In other cases, the Fossatis recreated damaged decorative mosaic patterns in paint, sometimes redesigning them in the process. The Fossati records are the primary sources about a number of mosaic images now believed to have been completely or partially destroyed in an earthquake in 1894. These include a great mosaic of Christ Pantocrator in the dome, a mosaic over a now-unidentified Door of the Poor, a large image of a jewel-encrusted cross, and a large number of images of angels, saints, patriarchs, and church fathers. Most of the missing images were located in the building's two tympana. The Fossatis also added a pulpit (minbar) and the four large medallions on the walls of the nave bearing the names of Muhammad and Islam's first caliphs.
One of the minarets (at southwest) was built from red brick while the other three were built from white limestone and sand stone; of which the slender one at northeast was erected by Sultan Bayezid II while the two larger minarets at west were erected by Sultan Selim II and designed by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan
|About Hagia Sophia Museum|
Hagia Sophia is considered a unique monument in world architecture, and its magnificence and functionality has been a good example in construction of countless Ottoman mosques. Hagia Sophia with its exceptional history constitutes a synthesis between east and west. This monument is one of the wonders of the world that has remained intact until the present day. One can find many attractions in Hagia Sophia – interesting forms of Byzantine architecture, mosaics of the Christian period as well as structures added during the Ottoman era.
Hagia Sophia has been a Christian place of worship for 916 years, then converted into a mosque and served Muslims for 481 years. Hagia Sophia Museum was opened in 1935 and ever since it has been attracting thousands of visitors every year.
According to Byzantine historians (Theophanes, Nikephoros, Grammarian Leon) the first building of Hagia Sophia church was established during the reign of Constantius I (324 – 337 AD). It was a basilica with a wooden roof, and it was burned down during a revolt. Nowadays there is no evidence of this structure.
During the reign of emperor Theodosius Hagia Sophia was built for the second time and opened to the public in 415 AD. The basilica was again burned down during the Nika Revolt in 532 AD. Some ruins of this building were discovered during excavations in 1936. There were stairs indicating the entrance of the building, columns, capitals and other fragments of the building.
Emperor Justinian (527 – 565 AD) wanted to build a church bigger than two previous ones, which would represent the power and magnificence of empire. The new building of Hagia Sophia was designed by two famous architects of that era – Isidoros from Miletos and Anthemios of Tralles. Many columns, capitals, marble and colourful stone were brought to Istanbul from various ancient cities in Anatolia and used in construction works of Hagia Sophia.
Besides the unique architecture of the building, the mosaics are also important artefacts of the period. The oldest mosaics – gold gilded with geometrical and floral designs - may be found in the inner narthex as well as in side naves. Figural mosaics (with images of Jesus Christ, Virgine Maria etc.) from 9th – 12th centuries are located on Emperor Door, apse, exit doors and upstairs gallery.
Hagia Sophia Museum
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