Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hagia Sophia, Constantinople

Hagia Sophia (also known as the Church of the Holy Wisdom – Της του Θεού Σοφίας -  and as the Big Church) in Constantinople was the Imperial Orthodox Cathedral during the Byzantine epoch, located in the European side of modern day Istanbul, Turkey. The current Church is the third building of the same name, constructed on the same grounds.
The first Great Church serving as the Cathedral was constructed by Emperor Constantius (337-361), the son of St Constantine the Great, in 360 AD. It was a basilica building, covered with a wooden roof. During a riot, which occurred at the time of Emperor Arcadios (365-408) in 404, it was unfortunately set on fire.

After reconstruction, it was rededicated by the Emperor Theodosios II (408-450) in 415, maintaining a similar basilica style. It survived until the Nika riot in 532. The Church building was rebuilt between 532 and 537 by Emperor Justinian. When the building was finalised, it was the largest Cathedral in the world. It was dedicated, with a big ceremony, on 27th December 537 AD. The Church was planned by two architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemios of Tralles, professors of geometry from Constantinople.
Justinian’s basilica was at once the culminating architectural achievement of late antiquity and the first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, a basilica church with a dome. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Of great artistic value was its decorated interior with mosaics and marble pillars and covering. Its influence, both architecturally and liturgically, was widespread and enduring in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Muslim worlds alike.
For over 900 years Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, being the Imperial Cathedral of the City. When the Byzantine Empire feel to the Ottoman Empire (29th May 1453) it was converted to a mosque, under Sultan Mehmet II. This was a logical move, since it was the largest religious building in the city. Additionally, most churches in the city had the same fate. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, president of the modern Turkish Republic, turned the Ayasofya Mosque into the Ayasofya Museum, allowing for millions of visitors to visit this magnificent Byzantine Church. It was opened as a museum for the first time on 1st February 1935.  

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