Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)

Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)

The church of the 'Holy Wisdom', built in the Byzantine Empire, had been one of the largest religious buildings until 1935, when it was converted into a museum.

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Keywords

Hagia Sophia, basilica, mosque, minaret, church, museum, Ottoman, Byzantine, Turkish, Turkey, Constantinople, Istanbul, Bosphorus, Anatolia, orthodox, Muslim, Christian, god, Middle Ages, building, pilgrimage site, marble, Christ, apostle, architecture, emperor, seraph, religion, religious buildings, BYZANTINE EMPIRE, Ottoman Empire, upper gallery, dome, calligraphy

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Hagia Sophia

Cutaway

Animation

The Hagia Sophia, the church of 'Holy Wisdom' is located in Istanbul, Turkey. The building has an eventful history spanning over one-and-a-half millennia.

The original church was built in the 4th century by the son of Constantine the Great, who had founded the new Roman capital there. Having been destroyed and rebuilt several times, the church took its final form in the 6th century. Later, in the 13th century, the Crusaders temporarily converted this great Eastern Orthodox church into a Roman Catholic one.

When Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II ordered that the building should be changed into a mosque. The four minarets were added in the second half of the 16th century. The building functioned as one of the principal mosques of Islam until 1931, when it was closed. After the reforms in the Republic of Turkey it was re-opened as a museum in 1934.

This Byzantine-style Orthodox basilica is an architectural masterpiece and it is often cited as a perfect synthesis of Byzantine architectural elements. The most special feature of the building is the complex dome structure. It was an architectural achievement, due to the dimensions of the main dome (56 m in height and 31 m in diameter) and its support system. There are forty arched windows placed around the base of the dome, which gives the dome the appearance of hovering above the nave.

On the western and eastern sides the arches continue in semi-domes supported by smaller semi-domed exedras. Thus, the impressive size of the building's interior is further expanded. The nave is surrounded by two ambulatories, with an arched colonnade on the ground floor and a colonnaded upper gallery. The contrast of the interior and the exterior of the building resulted from precise planning: the interior of the simple, massive building was airy and richly decorated.

This great structure, the last architectural achievement of late antiquity and first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture (together with other structures of the Historical Part of Istanbul), was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites in 1985.

Interior

Interior

The light shining through the large number of windows and the glowing candles create a mystical atmosphere in the interior of the richly ornamented building.

The Omphalion, the wishing column, the gigantic calligraphic panes and the amazing mosaics all make the interior even more special.

Naturally, all the places related to Islamic religious practices, namely the minbar, mihrab and the muezzin's loge are also found here, along with the sultan's loge.

Central dome

Central dome

The central dome of the Hagia Sophia is 55.6 m high and about 31 m in diameter. This gigantic dome is held by four concave triangular pendentives that are supported by four massive pillars placed on the four corners of the building.

Upper gallery

Deesis mosaic

Deesis mosaic

Created in the 13th century, the Deesis mosaic is one of the masterpieces of Byzantine art.
Sadly enough, only a fraction of it survived. It depicts Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist with remarkable detail: even the blush on Mary's face and John's wrinkles can be seen.

Walk

Narration

The Hagia Sophia, the church of 'Holy Wisdom' is located in Istanbul, Turkey. The building has an eventful history spanning over one-and-a-half millennia.

The original church was built in the 4th century by the son of Constantine the Great, who had founded the new Roman capital there. Having been destroyed and rebuilt several times, the church took its final form in the 6th century. Later, in the 13th century, the Crusaders temporarily converted this great Eastern Orthodox church into a Roman Catholic one.

When Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II ordered that the building should be changed into a mosque. The four minarets were added in the second half of the 16th century. The building functioned as one of the principal mosques of Islam until 1931, when it was closed. After the reforms in the Republic of Turkey it was re-opened as a museum in 1934.

This Byzantine-style Orthodox basilica is an architectural masterpiece and it is often cited as a perfect synthesis of Byzantine architectural elements. The most special feature of the building is the complex dome structure. It was an architectural achievement, due to the dimensions of the main dome (56 m in height and 31 m in diameter) and its support system. There are forty arched windows placed around the base of the dome, which gives the dome the appearance of hovering above the nave.

On the western and eastern sides the arches continue in semi-domes supported by smaller semi-domed exedras. Thus, the impressive size of the building's interior is further expanded. The nave is surrounded by two ambulatories, with an arched colonnade on the ground floor and a colonnaded upper gallery. The contrast of the interior and the exterior of the building resulted from precise planning: the interior of the simple, massive building was airy and richly decorated.

This great structure, the last architectural achievement of late antiquity and first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture (together with other structures of the Historical Part of Istanbul), was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites in 1985.

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