First Hagia Sophia building was called Megale Ecclesia, the “great church”. Then, in the 5th century, it began to be called merely “Sophia”. This was not, as is sometimes erroneously assumed, it was actually dedicated to a saint named Sophia, but rather because it was consecrated to Theia Sophia, or the “Divine Wisdom”, the second member of the Christian trinity.
Hagia Sophia’s dome, one piece of 55 metre above, is a symbol of unlimited cosmos.
It has been incorporated with Roman aesthetics and Christian mysticism
When today’s Hagia Sophia was built, it was regarded as a symbol of the encompassable cosmos, an unclosable illimitable void. The dome also was regarded as representing “a boundless infinity” and the church’s walls, sheathed with polychrome mosaics and stone, as symbolizing “meadows, forest, and seas”. However Hagia Sophia exalted in early Christian mysticism.
However after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, the name acquired the Turkish “Ayasofya”, which it has retained up to our day. More or less the same pronunciation.
The splendor of the Hagia Sophia’s interior decoration, its vast dimensions so unusual for a church, and above all, the height and breadth of the dome that dominates its central space, have awakened awe and admiration in visitors in all periods.
After Emperor Constantine I (324-337) officially proclaimed Christianity a legitimate religion, the construction of churches began all over the Empire. As a result of his tolerance, Constantine was claimed as the founder of a large number of churches. At the same time church historian, Socrates who lived in Constantinople between 380-440, reports that first Hagia Sophia was built by the Emperor Constantinus (337-361).
Same time Eudoxia, Emperor Arcadius’ wife, was embroiled in continuous strife with Patriarch of Byzantine, Josh Chroysostom. Following a quarrel between them over erecting a silver plated statue of the Empress just outside the church, Chrysostom was exiled to central Anatolia in 404, and the church was partially burnt down. (first one down)
The repairs were completed only during the reign of Theodosiius II (408-540) and the church was reopened in 415. But also this building remained standing for less than a century. It was burnt and collapsed once again cos of a revolt called “Nika” during the reign of Justinianus in 532. (second one down)
The Emperor Justinian commissioned two western Anatolian architects to rebuild the church. One of them was Isidorus of Miletus and the other Anthemius of Tralles (Aydın). Justinian had many materials brought from all over the Empire for the new church (they used columns of crazy famed temples such as Artemission, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world). So that they could complete this gigantic building in only 5 years.
During the Iconoclastic period(726-842) the internal decoration of the church had been changed, all the figurative icons had been taken and natural crosses which represented Virgin Mary, Jesus and Church, were replaced.
When the Latins of Fourth Crusader army took possession of the city in 1204, the church was converted into a Catholic Cathedral and robbed, vandalized and almost destroyed. The Byzantines captured the city and revived the Empire in 1261.
After Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque to provide a vast prayer place for Muslims. Along the ottoman period it had been repaired and added 4 minarets and many mausoleums around. During Sultan Abdülmecid’s reign(1847-1849) it was extendly repaired by Fossati brothers. They uncovered the beautiful mosaics and frescoes which were covered with plaster by Ottomans.
It remained as a mosque for almost 500 years. Ottoman Empire fell in 1923 completely and Turks declared their new ruling system as Republic under the direction of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
It remained as a mosque for almost 500 years. When Ottoman Empire fell in 1923 completely, Turks declared their new ruling system as Republic under the direction of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Following years (1935) Hagia Sophia’s status was changed one more time into a museum this time.
Here we are today and it has been changed again. Hagia Sophia is a mosque so far. I don’t judge good or bad.
Did we need it? No.
Did we want it? No.
This poor monument was hit by earthquakes, revolts, fires, crusaders, invasion, vandalism, politics and it seems like its pain will never cease.