The Haghia Sophia, nominated by many authors and historians as one of the eighth wonders of the world, is certainly a masterpiece of architecture since it is one of the few structures of scuh huge dimensions to have stood erect fors o long. Its architectural mastery was far ahead of its time and unmatched for 1000 years. Originally, the name Haghia Sophia ( Ayasofya in Turkish) was mistranslated as Saint Sophia. The baslica was not dedicated to a Saint named Sophia, but rather to
Holy Wisdom, and the two smaller basilicas built earlier at the same site where once stood a pagan temple, had borne the same name.
The first Haghia Sophia, a small structure with a wooden roof, was constructed during the second half of the 4th century upon the orders of Constantius, son of Constantine the Great. Although some sources attribute the honour to the father, it is not possible to take this claim seriously, for there is clear evidence that no house of worship was built during his reign.
The first Basilica of Haghia Sophia burned down completely in a fire in the year 404, and the second basilica, which was of somewhat larger dimensions, was built in 415. It served Christians for more than a century until 532 when, in the course of an uprising against the government ofEmperor Justinian ( Nika Revolt ) that ended in the death of then thousand and the destruction of many buildings, it, too, was burned down. Justinian, who was able to suppress the uprising with great difficulty, ordered that a temple “ like
nothing seen before since the day of Adam or can be seen in the future ” be built immediately on the remains of the second Hagia Sophia.
He made all the necessary means available to the architect Anthemius of Tralles and the mathematican Isidorus of Miletos who were to prepare the plans and supervise the construction, and placed all the riches of the state treasury at their disposal. Finally in 537, the largest church of the Christian world was dedicated among great festivities. The general plan of Hagia Sophia was actually same as that which had been used before in many basilicas. However, this did not make things any easier in designing the dome. By the 6th century, a system devised earlier by Roman architects for covering large cylindrical structures whit a single dome was available to the architects, but a huge, centrally-located circular cupola on top of a rectangular structure was to be tried fort the first time. Work progressed while monks kept chanting prayers seeking Holy protection. Numerous marble pieces
and columns of different shapes and sizes dating back to more ancient times were brought in from ruins all around the empire and used in the building.
There are many stories about the origin of these materials, especially the columns, but none of these can be taken seriously. As said before, the Hagia Sophia was conceived and built by Justinian merely as a prestige building. Nevertheless for centuries, it was regarded with awe as a holy symbol, for it was not plausible for the people in those days that such a building of a size unsurpassable for about a thousand years and one that would require enormous resources and a technology much more advanced than what they were accustomed to could be built without the assistance of supernatural powers. Although it was created during the 6th century as a Byzantine tectonic work, Haghia Sophia is actually an experiment in the Roman tradition of architecture which had no archetype and which could not be imitated afterwards.The contrast between the exterior and interior of building as well as the colossal dome are legacies of the Roman era.
The exterior is not finelined, and the constituent elements are not well proportioned.In other words, the exterior was treated simply as a crust or shell, and does not fit properly with the interior that has the magnificience of a palace, a grandeur becoming an imperial building. This bit of criticism on Outlook not withstanding, the Haghia Sophia was a great achievement especially at the time it was built, and it must have been the magnitude of his achievement that excitedEmperor Justinian during the basilica’s dedication to the point of driving his chariot into the building and after praising the Lord for judging him worthy of such an achievement, shouting that he had surpassed King Solomon.
The basilica soon developed into a religious centre with the monasteries that surrounded it within a few years, and was ready to be the perpetual struggle between the Byzantine Emperors and Eastern Church. Despite its uniqueness and magnificence, the building had many structural problems,The most important of these was that of statics. At the time the Haghia Sophia was built, the architectural
means of transferring, the weight of the cupola to the foundation were not yet fully developed, Consequently, the walls that kept slanting outwards, finally witnessed the collapse of the cupola in the year 558. While rebuilding, the cupola was raised further and the diameter reduced in order to decreaese the outward thrust and stres. However this cupola, too, did not prove perfect and sections of it collapsed in the 10th and 14th centuries.
Throughout its lifetime, the maintenance of the Haghia Sophia always cost the rulers of the city vast sums and the poverty that prevailed towards the end of the Byzantine Empire left the church virtually a ruin.It was the conquest of Istanbul by Turks under Sultan Mehmed the Conquerorand the eventual conversion of the Haghia Sophia into a moque that saved this beautiful monument. The most vital repairs were done in the 16th centruy by Turkish architect Sinan the Great, who, among other things, added buttresses that have supported the whole structure to this day.
Also, a major restoration was carried on in the 19th century by the Fosatti brothers. After 1926, it was repaired many times by different Turkish architects, who have also added an iron frame to the dome. After serving for 916 years as a basilica and 477 years as aplace of worship to two religions believing in the same God, the Haghia Sophia was converted into a museum upon Mustafa Kemal ATATURK’s orders. The mosaics that were uncovered during the 1930-1935 are among the most important works art of Byzantine erat hat have survived to this day.
VISIT HAGHIA SOPHIA The entrance of museum is the original portal that began to be used after many centuries. Before entering, one can see the remnants of the second Haghia Sophia. Then comes the outer narthex which used to be only part of the church where the unbaptized were admitted. This narthex is connected by five doors to the interior narthex which in turno pens by nine doors to the nave. The higher door in the middle wes reserved fort the entrance of the Emperor.
The 9th century, mosaic panel above the middle door, the depicts a kneeeling emperor interceding for before Jesus Christ sitting on a throne. On the medallions on each side are portraits of Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel.The other non-figurative mosaics on the ceiling of the interior narthex are originals from the era of Justinian. Upon entering the nave, the visitors are impressed by its vastness and magnificence. Especially the dome which appears to hang unsupported from the sky, has the most striking effect. The walls are highly colourful with the beautiful marble plates used to decorate them.
The three different colour tones of the mosaics on the dome indicate the three major repairs it has gone through in the past. The dome of the Haghia Sophia, with is diameter and height, is among the largest in the world. ( As a result of numerous repairs, the central cupola no longer has the shape of a perfect circle-Its diameter is 31.87 m/104.5 ft in the North-South and 30.87 m/101.5 ft in the East-West elevations. The height of its apex is 55.60 m/182.5 ft from the floor ). On the two sides of the large (74.67 # 69.80 m/245 # 229ft) nave are two aisles that are normally dark. The interior of Haghia Sophia is illuminated naturally through windows high on the walls.
The building has 107 columns at the ground level and in the galleries. The antique porphyry columns at the corners, the central columns made of green broccia Solonika and their white marble capitals rich in carved desingns take the visitor back to ancient times. To enjoy a visit to the Haghia Sophia fully, one should try to imagine the place as the church or mosque it used to be and feel the magnificently mystical air that inspired feelings of aew in believers. During the period when the
Haghia Sophia was the cathedral of a great and prosperous empire, the chancel, the ivory altar and the ambones were veneered by gold and silver plates and ornamented with jewels.
The sacred articles used during the rites were also made of precious metals and stones, an deven some of the doors were decorated with the same. All these items were looted and carried to Europe during the invasion of the city in the course of the Fourth Crusade. The large circular leather pendants 7,5 m in diameter, suspended from the walls at the inscription inside the central cupola are reminders of the fact that the building was also used as a mosque.
The Arabic inscriptions on the pendants as well as in the cupola, are the creations of the most famous artisans of the 19th century anda re among the best examples of this branch of art. The mihrab (prayer niche) and the mimber (pulpit) in the apse of the church as well as the chanters balcony are later additions. On the hand, the square shaped area paved with pieces of coloured marble just in front of the chanters balcony is probably from the 12th century, and marks the place where the emperors were to stand while being crowned.On the two sides of the nave stand two large urns. These urns are of antique originand were brought in from the ancient city of Pergamum during the late 16th century. The Perspiring Column stands in the northern corner of the nave and a bronze belt surrounds its lower section. The column has a finger-hole in its body and there are many stories about it. Of the buttresses that support the structure, the one at the North has a ramp inside which provides easy ascent to the upper galleries.
The magnificient view of the nave is especially impressive from these galleries that surround the nave at three sides. During the days of the Byzantine Empire, parts of these galleries were reserved fort he ladies of the court and the rest was used by the congregation. On the wall of the northern gallery, there is a single mosaic mural while the wall of the southern gallery is adorned with other murals, each depicting three holy personalities. The large mosaic panel seen while leaving the museum through the interior narthex is a work of art from the 10th century.
The central figure in this panel with a distorted perspective is the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus on her knees. To her sides are Emperor Justinian presenting with the model of Haghia Sophia. The colossal doors(partly buried in the floor) that are seen while exiting date back to the 2th century B.C. and were brought from Tarsus, probably from a pagan temple. In the courtyard of the museum are some structures of Turkish origin, built at different times.
These are the tombs of Sultans, a school, a clock-setting house and an ablution fountain. The minarets on the eastern side were added on to the building in the 15th century and those in the west in the 16th century.