The Church of the Holy Wisdom, variously known as Hagia Sophia (Άγια Σοφία) in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin or Ayasofya in Turkish, is a former Christian church, now a museum, in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople. It is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world and a reference point in history of architecture. The church is sometimes mistakenly called "Saint Sophia," as though it were named for a saint called Sophia.
The first great church on the site was built by Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great, but was burned down during the Nika riots of 532. The building was rebuilt in its present form in 532 - 537 under the personal supervision of emperor Justinian I. It is a prime example of Byzantine architecture. Of great artistic value was its decorated interior with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. The temple itself was so richly and artistically decorated that Justinian is believed to have said Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών (Solomon, I have surpassed you!).
Its architects were Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, professors of geometry at the University of Constantinople . Justinian's great basilica was at once the culminating architectural achievement of late antiquity and the first great masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Its influence, both architecturally and liturgically, was widespread and enduring in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim worlds alike.
Hagia Sophia is covered by a central dome 102 feet (31 m) across, slightly smaller than the Pantheon's. The dome seems rendered weightless by the unbroken arcade of arched windows under it, which help flood the colorful interior with light. The dome is carried on pendentives. These four concave triangular sections of masonry solved the problem of setting the circular base of a dome on a rectangular base. At Hagia Sophia the weight of the dome passes through the pendentives to four massive piers at the corners. Between them the dome seems to float upon four great arches.
At the west (entrance) and east (liturgical) ends, the arched openings are extended and by great half domes carried on smaller semidomed exedras. Thus a hierarchy of dome-headed elements build up to create a vast oblong interior crowned by the main dome, a sequence unexampled in antiquity.
In fact, "its first dome fell after an earthquake May 7 558; its replacement in 563, had a higher profile than the original. It also had to be repaired after additional partial collapses ..." in 989 and 1346 (see Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modernism p, 171).
All interior surfaces are sheathed with polychrome marbles, green and white with purple porphyry and gold mosaics, encrusted upon the brick. On the exterior, simple stuccoed walls reveal the clarity of massed vaults and domes.
For over 900 years the Higia Sophia has been a seat of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for imperial ceremonies.
The cathedral was converted to a mosque at the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. Its rich figurative mosaics were covered with plaster. It was for almost 500 years the principal mosque of Istanbul. Hagia Sophia served as model for many of the great Ottoman mosques of Constantinople such as the Shehzade Mosque , the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rustem Pasha Mosque .
After continuing as a mosque into the early years of the republic of Turkey, in 1934 under Kemal Atatürk it was secularized and turned into the Ayasofya Museum. Nevertheless, the colorful mosaics remained largely plastered over, and the building was allowed to decay. A 1993 UNESCO mission to Turkey noted falling plaster, dirty marble facings, broken windows, decorative paintings damaged by moisture, and ill-maintained lead roofing. Cleaning, roofing and restoration have since been undertaken. The exceptional floor and wall mosaics which had been cemented over in 1453 are now being gradually excavated.
- Contemporary description by Procopius, De Aedificiis, published in 561 AD.
- Introduction, with floor plan and elevations.
- Very brief illustrated report on restorations
- Before Hagia Sophia, The Era of East Roman Empire Painting by Ismail Acar, in Hagia Sophia, 1999.
- One of the most famous Christ mosaic of Hagia Sophia Painting by Ismail Acar, in Hagia Sophia, 1999.
- Hagia Sophia's horses, now in Venice Square Painting by Ismail Acar, in Hagia Sophia, 1999.
- Mainstone, Rowland J. (1997). Hagia Sophia: Architecture, Structure, and Liturgy of Justinian's Great Church (reprint edition). W W Norton & Co Inc. ISBN 0500279454.
Hagia Sophia is also the name of:
- The largest Byzantine church of Thessaloniki in Greece. It was built in the 8th century and was converted to a mosque by the Turks. Since 1913 it has been used as a Christian church again. In addition to its interesting Byzantine architecture and decoration, the temple is known for its painting of Analipsis (Ascension) that is considered the most important monumental fresco of the 9th century. Recently many books and ancient scripts along with paintings from the 9th century were found in a storeroom of the church.
- A 13-domed cathedral in Kyiv. It had been built from 1037 to 1054 by Yaroslav the Wise, son of St Vladimir the Great. In the 17th century, the building was rebuilt in Ukrainian baroque style. Due its internal decoration of frescoes and mosaics, it is still considered one of the most representative buildings of the 11th century.
- A 5-domed cathedral in Novgorod the Great built by the prince Vladimir around 1044. Unlike its Kievan namesake, the church survived virtually unchanged in exterior. Fresco inscriptions are in Greek, bronze doors were taken from the Swedish capital Uppsala in the 12th century, but the grandeur of white stone masses and helmeted cupolas is unmistakably Russian.
- A Christian church in Polotsk consecrated in 1066, totally rebuilt in the 18th century but still considered a motherchurch of Belarus.
- A Christian church in Monemvassia, a medieval fortress located in the Peloponnese, Greece.
- A Christian church in Sophia in Bulgaria, which gave its name to the city.
- A Christian church in Trabzon, Turkey.
- A former Christian church in Nicosia, Cyprus, which is now a mosque.