Everything About Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia 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.

Hagia Sophia History, Architecture, Facts

You may find some answers to the most common questions about Hagia Sophia.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 History by Serhat Engul

© Hagia Sophia Photography – Pictures All Rights Reserved 2019

Hagia Sophia History, Architecture, Mosaics, Facts

2 thoughts on “Hagia Sophia History, Architecture, Mosaics, Facts”

  1. Fantastic — Even though Hagia Sophia had been converted into a Mosque after the Turks conquered Constlantinoble in 1453 AD the Ottomon Turks did not destroy the original Christians mosaics, which have been kept in marvellous repair till today.
    I wish the Islamic League, who are now destroying everything Chritian and killing Christians of all ages in countries where they hold sway, would learn from this example.
    Goa – March 2nd 2019.

    1. I have to say that I find it a very narrow minded perspective. I believe there is no Islamic League or monolithic Islamic world. A Muslim country (Syria or Iran) may become ally with Orthodox Christian Russia and Taoist China when circumstances demand it! Yet most religious country of the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) is getting along well with USA more than it does with any other Muslim country. Conflict of interest is the major motive behind most of the battles not the religion. (except for individual acts) Religion is just the excuse.

      And yes, Ottomans caused far less damage during the fall of Constantinople (1453) than the Crusaders had caused in the Sack of Constantinople (1204). Because Venetians were the rivals of Byzantines in the Eastern Mediterranean. They razed the Constantinople to the ground while they were supposed to march Jerusalem, to fight a holy war against Muslims. This is what I wanted to say while mentioning “conflict of interest”.

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