Byzantium’s largest cathedral, Haghia Sophia was the centre of the Eastern Christian Church in its time. Once the world’s largest church, today it is surpassed in size only by St. Paul’s in London, St. Peter’s in Rome and the Duomo in Milan.
Hagia Sophia first built in 360 by Emperor Constantine, the church was burned down twice because of revolts. Between 532 and 537 AD, it was rebuilt on a larger scale to match Emperor Justinian’s plans to re-unite the old Roman Empire. The church is dedicated to Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom or the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity.
Justinian ordered the finest marbles from the quarries of Greece, Egypt, Africa and Asia Minor. He brought the most skilled workmen from all over the Empire to Constantinople. Construction of the Church started just one month after the disaster. Around 7000 stone-masons, bricklayers, plasterers, carpenters, painters, sculptors, mosaicists, sweepers and polishers worked overtime to complete Justinian’s masterpiece. It took only 5 years and 10 months.
On 26 December 537, St Stephen’s Dav, the new church of the Divine Wisdom was opened. The Patriarch Menas welcomed the Emperor at the great west door the Orea Porta, or Beautiful Gate. When Justinian entered the finished church he uttured, ‘Glory to God who has deemed me worthy of accomplishing such a work! Oh Solomon l have surpassed theeIts architects were the geometry expert Isidorus of Miletus and master methematician Anthemius of Tralles.
The dome which was previously used only in circular structures is here placed on a rectangular basilica. The construction spreads out 7570 metre square. It’s length 100m. Height of dome is 55.60 m. Diameter of dome 31-32 m. (not a perfect circle) There are totaly 107 columns in the church brought from ancient Anatolia as well as Temple of Artemis in Ephesus and Baalbek. While 40 of these columns on the ground floor 67 of them are on the upper galaries.
Mehmet the Conqueror made his first prayers after the conquest of the city at Haghia Sophia, and the church was immediately converted into a mosque. Four minarets were later added to the complex. The mosaics were covered with plaster in 1750, but after the building was turned into a museum in 1934, the mosaics were uncovered under the direction of Thomas Whittemore. The metal scaffolding placed inside the structure 17 years ago for restoration purposes, but which blocked the view of the dome, was removed in 2010.
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