The History of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is one of the most important monuments of the world architecture history which managed to stand still until today and it has an important place in the world of art in terms of its size, architecture, magnificence, and functionality.
The monument is currently being used as mosque by Muslims while it is also the biggest church that was built by Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul which is built three times on the same location. Initially, it was known as Megale Ekklesia however its named changed to Hagia Sophia which means Holy Wisdom. The mosque was a church where monarchs crowned while it was controlled by Eastern Roman Empire and it also served as cathedral as the capital’s largest church.
The first church was built by Emperor Constantius in 360 which the roof was covered by wood and it had been demolished as a result of civil commotion in 404 due to Istanbul Patriarch Ioannes Chrysostomos exiled by empress Eudoxia, the wife of Emperor Arcadius. It is still possible to see the mosaic depiction of the patriarch on the northern tympano wall of the Hagia Sophia museum.
Although today we do not have any residue of the first church, it is believed that Megale Ekklesia stamped bricks which are stored in the museum store belongs to the first church.
The second Church was rebuilt by Emperor II. Theodosius in 415. It is know that the second church has five naves, covered with a wooden roof and monumental entrance. The church was destroyed on January, 15, 532 in a great public uprising which is known as Nike Revolt in the history where blues and greens came together against Emperor Justinian in his 5th reign. The blues were representing the aristocrat segment where greens represent artisans and merchants segment.
Steps of Propylon which is the monumental gate, column bases, ornamented frieze parts with lamb relief which represent the Twelve Apostles were found under the 2 meters deep as a result of the excavations carried out under the direction of M. Scheind by Istanbul German Archaeology Institute in 1935. In addition to these other architectural parts of the monumental entrance can be found in the western part of the garden today.
Today’s Hagia Sophia was built by two important architects of the period, Tralles and Anthemios with the order of Emperor Justinian. According to the historian Prokopios it was started in February 23, 532 and completed in a short period such as 5 years. The Hagia Sophia opened with a worship ceremony in December 27, 537. According to the sources Emperor Justinian yelled as “Suleiman, I beat you!” by referring to Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem right after telling “Hallelujah that you provided me this opportunity to built such a place of worship” by entering into Hagia Sophia in the opening day.
The sizes of Hagia Sophia which was built as the third church is quite larger than the previous ones and it is the one which managed to stand still until today almost 1600 years after it was built.
One of the main reasons why Hagia Sophia has a great importance as a holy place for Christians is because it was Imperial Church during the Eastern Roman Period. This is why it was used as a church where coronation ceremonies took place. The round and interlaced pattern of colored stone flooring -omphalion- which is located on the right side of the main venue -naos- of Hagia Sophia was the part where Eastern Roman Emperors wore their crowns. This tradition end with the loss of Constantine however Hagia Sophia’s importance for the Christianity still continues although hundreds of years passed even Hagia Sophia serves as a museum today.
Hagia Sofia is one of the most interesting museums in the world both with its history as well as its dimensions. The monument which is also used as a mosque by the Muslims built with the combination of traditional basilica plan and central dome plan which was the unique innovation in the time it has been build. The structure has three naves, one apse and two narthex which one of them is in inner side while the other one is outdoor. The diameter of the building is 31,87 meters in North – South direction and 30,86 meters in East – West direction.
The Hagia Sophia came through a great fire in 859 as well as an earthquake in 869. The great dome of the structure collapsed by an earthquake on October, 989 and it was restored again. In the earthquakes which took place in 1344 and 1346, some parts of the dome along with the some parts of the arch collapsed by restored by the reign which rules the Constantine. Most of the current parts of Hagia Sophia renewed in those times of course some more additions took place with the support of Ottoman Empire in the future due to disasters in the region.
The repair works which were started by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror during the Ottoman Empire period with the conquer of Istanbul and these works continued by the following Sultans as well. The most important repairs in Hagia Sophia carried out by Swiss Fossati brothers between the years of 1847 and 1849 with the order of Sultan Abdulmecid. Quran’s Nur sura’s 35. verse was written on the main dome by kadi-ul asker Mustafa Izzet Effendi who was one of the most important calligraphers of that period and the whole calligraphy covers an area of approximately 11,30 meters during this renovation work.