Hagia Sophia, the Pride of Istanbul
Hagia Sophia has played an important role in several cultures and has been a home for various religions. First, a church, then a mosque, and now a majestic museum! Being one of the oldest surviving churches throughout the world, and one of the biggest architectural marvels to date, its majestic beauty, and unique style still play an important role in inspiring a lot of people around the world.
Hagia Sophia is one of the world’s most fascinating monuments and the best example of Byzantine architecture. It was initially inaugurated by Emperor Justinian in December 537. It was later converted into a mosque by Turkish sultans in 1453, and finally declared a museum in the year 1934. Let us take a virtual tour to this historic architectural wonder to have a deeper connection with its details.
1.The fastest Constructed Church:
Hagia Sophia was constructed well within years and months. Quite an achievement for such a majestic structure built without any advanced machinery. Its construction was handed over to two of the most prominent scientists, and mathematicians turned architects of that time, Anthemios, and Isidoros. There were more than 100 designers and architects working under these masters for detailing out his magnificent sculpture. For the church to be completed within such a small span, the material was brought in from all over the empire. Several quarries were devoted solely to carve out stone for the structure. Ready materials from several other temples were also bought in and made a part of Hagia Sophia.
2. The Sultan’s Mosque:
During the Ottoman rule in Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was transformed from a protocol church to a mosque complex. The major additions that were introduced in the complex were two minarets, to give it the vibe of a mosque. The two identical-looking minarets were built during that time. The rest two different minarets were added later on. Another major addition was a kiosk meant for Sultan to pray, without being visible by anyone else. A lot of artwork and mosaics inside the church were also covered up with Islamic art and sayings.
3. And a Museum:
In 1934, this great structure was declared secular by the Turkish president. It was converted into a museum in 1935. The beautiful mosaics and the central dome of Hagia Sophia are the major sources of attraction for anyone visiting the museum. You can still see the artwork from the byzantine time peeking through several places in the building. Some of the most important mosaics that have been preserved in the museum include the mosaics of Virgin holding Christ, Alexander the great holding a skull amongst numerous others. A visit to this historical treasure will make one feel the essence of several cultures, religions, and historical events that this great monument has witnessed.
4. The Central Dome:
The dome of Hagia Sophia was the biggest one ever constructed till that time and remained to be so for a long time to come. As soon as one enters the main building the first thing that catches everybody’s eye is the breathtaking grandeur of the central dome. This 31-meter wide circular dome, sitting 55 meters above your head was once laid down with over 30 million gold mosaic tiles, however, right now is all covered up with Islamic inscriptions. Due to an earthquake in 558, the original dome got completely destructed due to its heavyweight and structure. Immediate restoration of the dome was commissioned by the emperor and the dome which we see today was constructed, with a lighter yet more sustainable structure.
The dome structure is perfectly complemented by an arcade of 40 arched openings which to date, stands out as a unique achievement in the field of architecture.
Hagia Sophia had to be restored several times in history due to several natural as well as human-caused destruction that it had to face. Some of the major destruction included the earthquakes of 869, and 989. Another misfortunate incidence that destroyed a major part of the structure was the great fire of 859. However, this great structure has been a crusade for numerous cultures, empires, and religions, has been surviving bravely, and still stands as a monument of pride for Istanbul.