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Hagia Sophia Museum History, Architecture, Mosaics, Facts

Hagia Sophia Museum is located at the heart of old Istanbul. It’s considered as the most important historic monument in Istanbul city. Hagia Sophia is literally the gem of Istanbul, Turkey. Let’s discover the secrets of Hagia Sophia together.

Where Is Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) Located?

Hagia Sophia is located in present day Istanbul, Turkey. The Hagia Sophia had been the main church of Constantinople (The capital of Byzantine Empire) for nearly 900 years.

Which Emperor Built The Hagia Sophia Church?

Justinian I, the emperor of Byzantine Empire built the Hagia Sophia, from 532 to 537. The church is completed in 5 years only. Considering the resources of 6th century and the size of the Church, this is unbelievable speed.

Hagia Sophia’s Exterior, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia’s Exterior

Who Were The Hagia Sophia’s Architects?

Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus. These two talented architects built the Hagia Sophia Church in five years. 10.000 unskilled workers and 1000 master worker engaged in the constrcution process of Hagia Sophia. The people worked day and night in order to complete the construction of the spiritual center of Constantinople.

What Is The Meaning of Hagia Sophia?

Hagia Sophia means Holy Wisdom. Hagia Sophia is not the first church in the same spot. There had been another church which is named Megale Ekklesia (Great Church) in the same area before the Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia Square in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Area

Hagia Sophia Square

What Was The Original Purpose of the Hagia Sophia?

The previous church: Megale Ekklesia demolished by the populace during the famous Nika Revolt. This riot broke out against the emperor Justinian I in the Constantinople at the fifth year of his reign. Justinian was the longest reigning monarch during the history of Byzantium yet he was almost killed at the beginning of this dreadful riot.

The famous Byzantine general Belisarius saved the emperor from the hands of angry rebels. However, Belisarius slaughtered 30.000 people in the Hippodrome of Constantinople to put an end to this riot.

Emperor Justinian built the Hagia Sophia to consolidate his sovereignty. The Justinian’s new church is built on the top of the remnants of Megale Ekklesia. He intended his new church to be the most beautiful temple ever known. In other words, he wanted to surpass the fame of King Solomon’s legendary temple in Jerusalem.

According to a 9th Century document, upon the completion of Hagia Sophia, Justinian walked through the Imperial Gate and exclaimed “Solomon, I have surpassed you!”

Imperial Gates of Hagia Sophia

Imperial Gates Of Hagia Sophia

Why Is Hagia Sophia Important for World architecture?

The architects of Hagia Sophia: Anthemius and Isidore faced a seemingly impossible challenge while they were creating the plans of Hagia Sophia. They had to turn a square into a circle. Roman architects had been struggling unsuccessfully for decades, trying to put a round dome, on top of a square structure.

The Pantheon‘s round dome, on its round base was thought to be the only way to build a dome; but Justinian was determind to put a round dome on the top of a Christian Church. Therefore Anthemius and Isidore invented entirely new architectural elements. They initially began with the old workhorse of Roman architecture: the arch; on the other hand they devised triangular shaped sections that fill in the gaps between the arches and the dome. These entirely new architectural element was named: the pendentive.

Archangel on the Pendentive of Hagia Sophia

Pendentive of Hagia Sophia

What is the church of Hagia Sophia made out of?

With the seismic records of destruction that extends back 4000 years, and with countless building toppled all around it, why has Hagia Sophia not fallen? Because the architects built Hagia Sophia to withstand earthquakes.

The Anthemius and Isidore realized that the solid & rigid buildings with heavy walls, shaken apart by the earthquakes. The took a risk and tried a new building method. They built Hagia Sophia with light and flexible materials. In order to accomplish this new building method, they created a new building material. The Anthemius, put a secret ingredient in the mortar of the Hagia Sophia: crushed brick.

The Dome of Hagia Sophia Church

Dome of Hagia Sophia

Why did the Hagia Sophia Dome Collapsed?

Justinian wanted to create the largest temple in the world. To fulfill his dream of creating the greatest temple in the world, Emperor Justinian had summoned the two brightest minds of Byzantine Empire: Anthemius and Isidore.

To make the task even more challenging, he wanted his church’s dome to be the biggest world has ever seen. Anthemius and Isidore had sleepless nights in order to create the unique plan of the church. When completed the dome’s interior diameter of 108 feet (32 meters) made Hagia Sophia the largest dome building in the world.

6th Century writer Procopius states that the dome hovered as if suspended from heaven on a golden chain.

However this magnificent dome was not faultless, following a devastating earthquake that strikes Istanbul city in 558, the gigantic dome had collapsed alongside with the semidome of Hagia Sophia. Emperor Justinian was aggrieved by the damage. However the original architects both were dead.

He summoned the best architect of Byzantine Empire: Isidorus the Younger, nephew of Isidore of Miletus (one of the first architects).

The renovation work carried out by the Isidorus the Younger successfully. He created a new dome that would last to modern times. Thanks to the genious of this architect, the dome of Hagia Sophia still stands.

Informative Visuals at Hagia Sophia’s Outer Narthex

Hagia Sophia’s Outher Narthex

Is the Hagia Sophia still a Church or a Mosque?

The Hagia Sophia was built as a church. It stayed as a church from 537 to 1453 (nearly 900 years) As the Constantinople fell to Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Hagia Sophia is converted into a mosque.

The Sultan Mehmed II of Ottoman Empire, adored the building and made the necessary renovations following the battle. He knew about the history and significance of the building very well, therefore he did his best to protect it.

Ottomans never gave a harm to Hagia Sophia’s mosaics or decoration elements. Thank to this respectful approach, we are still able to enjoy the beauty of Byzantine mosaics. The Hagia Sophia stayed as a mosque from 1453 to 1930s. (nearly 500 years)

Hagia Sophia’s Interior Photos, Pictures and Images

Hagia Sophia’s Center

When did Hagia Sophia became a Museum?

The modern Turkey is formed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1923) Following the collapse of Ottoman Empire after the World War I.

The Ataturk made educational, legislative and cultural reforms as the first president of Turkish Republic. He introduced Latin alphabet to the folk. He also established the parliament of Turkey in Ankara (TMBB). Ataturk gave comprehensive rights to the women and abolished the monarchy alongside with the caliphate.

The new Turkish Parliament, decided to convert Hagia Sophia into a museum. Because Hagia Sophia was representing both Christianity and Islam and should be considered as the common heritage of the world.

Hagia Sophia’s Nave from upper floor: Empress Lodge

Empress Lodge of Hagia Sophia

Byzantine Mosaics Of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia represents the artistic heritage of Byzantine Empire. Once the most important Church of Constantinople, it was adorned with the best examples of Byzantine art.

Emperor Leon VI Mosaic on top of Imperial Gate

Leon VI mosaic

Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ Mosaic in Apse

Virgin Mary and Jesus in Apse

Justinian and Constantine Mosaic on Top of Exit Door

Mosaic of Emperor Justinian and Constantine

Deesis Mosaic Of Hagia Sophia (2nd Floor)

Deesis Mosaic Of Hagia Sophia

Constantine IX Monomachos & Empress Zoe Mosaic

Mosaic of Constantine and Zoe

Mosaic of Emperor John Comnenus, wife Eirene, son Alexios

Mosaic of Emperor John Comnenus

Hagia Sophia Private Tour Guide

Hagia Sophia Guided Tours

By Serhat Engül

info@istanbulclues.com

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Further Recommended Reading:

Istanbul Museums Opening Hours

Constantinople Tour Of Istanbul

Where To Stay In Istanbul

Latest Istanbul Metro Maps

Hagia Sophia Private Tour Guide


Serhat Engül

© Hagia Sophia Photography – Pictures All Rights Reserved 2017 – 2018
Hagia Sophia Architecture, Mosaics and Facts was last modified: July 21st, 2017 by Serhat Engül

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