Hagia Sophia

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Hagia Sophia (Greek 'Αγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom"; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish: Ayasofya) and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Built in 537 CE, during the reign of Justinian, it was the world's largest building and an engineering marvel of its time. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have "changed the history of architecture". The Hagia Sophia is of masonry construction. The structure has brick and mortar joints that are 1.5 times the width of the bricks. The mortar joints are composed of a combination of sand and minute ceramic pieces distributed evenly throughout the mortar joints. This combination of sand and ceramic pieces could be considered the contemporaneous equivalent of modern concrete.

The building was constructed between 532 and 537 CE on the orders of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I as the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the prior one having been destroyed by rioters in the Nika riots. It was designed by the Greek geometers Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles.


circa 537 CE

On 23 February 532 CE, only a few weeks after the destruction of the second basilica, Emperor Justinian I decided to build a third and entirely different basilica, larger and more majestic than its predecessors. Justinian chose geometer and engineer Isidore of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles as architects; Anthemius, however, died within the first year of the endeavor. The construction is described in the Byzantine historian Procopius' On Buildings (Peri ktismatōn, Latin: De aedificiis). Columns and other marbles were brought from all over the empire, throughout the Mediterranean. The idea of these columns being spoils from cities such as Rome and Ephesus is a later invention.


circa 537 CE

circa 537 CE


circa 537 CE

There are a number of mosaics in Hagia Sophia Church, the first mosaics which adorned the church were completed during the reign of Justin II. Many of the non-figurative mosaics in the church come from this period. Most of the mosaics, however, were created in the 10th and 12th centuries, following the periods of Byzantine Iconoclasm.

Notable Points of Interest

circa 537 CE

The Marble Door inside the Hagia Sophia is located in the southern upper enclosure or gallery. It was used by the participants in synods (council of church), who entered and left the meeting chamber through this door. It is said that each side is symbolic and that one side represents heaven while the other represents hell. Its panels are covered in fruits and fish motives. The door opens into a space that was used as a venue for solemn meetings and important resolutions of patriarchate officials.

circa 537 CE

The Emperor's Door or the Imperial Door is the door that would be used solely by the Emperor as well as his personal bodyguard and retinue. It is the largest door in the Hagia Sophia and has been dated to the 6th century. It is about 7 meters long and Eastern Roman sources say it was made with wood from Noah's Ark.

circa 537 CE

Ablution fountain (Şadırvan) was built in 1740 CE by Sultan Mahmud I over the site of a Byzantine Patriarchate, the fountain with its eight marble columns in the courtyard reflects the Ottoman Classical Art. Ablution is the ritual act of washing oneself with water before entering the mosque for prayer. It was constructed in the south-western corner of the plaza outside the Hagia Sophia.

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