Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Ramp for the Upper Gallery, St Sophia – Constantinople

One of the non-important features within an Orthodox Church is the ramp or staircase to the upper gallery, also known as gynaikonitis, whereby women only used to go to during the Divine Liturgy and the other services. Today the upper gallery maintains the name gynaikonitis but men and women go during the services.

The unique feature, which I have found, in the case of St Sophia is the fact that the ramp going up to the upper gallery is quite large. It is not a staircase, but a ramp, wide enough for a small carriage. It is said that the Empress, during the Byzantine epoch, used to go to the gynaikoniti. She was taken up there with her carriage. Therefore, the ramp had to be big enough.

 It sounds like a weird thing to have in a Church; however, it was the Imperial Church of the Byzantines, so many things do seem to us as too much. Example of this is the size. Today we rarely see such massive Church buildings in the world. However, in order to show their Imperial power and wealth, they had to have elaborate features within the Imperial Cathedral in Constantinople. 

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