Hagia Sophia Mosaics

The first mosaics which adorned the Hagia Sophia were only 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 completed after the end of the periods of Byzantine Iconoclasm in 843.

circa 532 CE

The Mosaic of Leo VI or the Imperial Gate mosaic is located in the tympanum above that gate, which was used only by the emperors when entering the church. The emperor with a nimbus or halo could possibly represent emperor Leo VI the Wise or his son Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus bowing down before Christ Pantocrator, seated on a jeweled throne, giving His blessing and holding in His left hand an open book. The text on the book reads as follows: "Peace be with you. I am the light of the world". (John 20:19; 20:26; 8:12) On each side of Christ's shoulders is a circular medallion: on His left the Archangel Gabriel, holding a staff, on His right His Mother Mary.

circa 532 CE

Southwestern entrance mosaic, situated in the tympanum of the southwestern entrance, dates from the reign of Basil II. It was rediscovered during the restorations of 1849 by the Fossatis. The Virgin sits on a throne without a back, her feet resting on a pedestal, embellished with precious stones. The Child Christ sits on her lap, giving His blessing and holding a scroll in His left hand. On her left side stands emperor Constantine in ceremonial attire, presenting a model of the city to Mary. The inscription next to him says: "Great emperor Constantine of the Saints". On her right side stands emperor Justinian I, offering a model of the Hagia Sophia. The medallions on both sides of the Virgin's head carry the monograms MP and ΘΥ, an abbreviation of "Mētēr" and "Theou", meaning "Mother of God".

circa 532 CE

The Empress Zoe mosaic on the eastern wall of the southern gallery date from the 11th century. Christ Pantocrator, clad in the dark blue robe (as is the custom in Byzantine art), is seated in the middle against a golden background, giving His blessing with the right hand and holding the Bible in His left hand. On either side of His head are the monograms IC and XC, meaning Iēsous Christos. He is flanked by Constantine IX Monomachus and Empress Zoe, both in ceremonial costumes. He is offering a purse, as a symbol of donation, he made to the church, while she is holding a scroll, symbol of the donations she made.

circa 532 CE

The Comnenus mosaic, also located on the eastern wall of the southern gallery, dates from 1122. The Virgin Mary is standing in the middle, depicted, as usual in Byzantine art, in a dark blue gown. She holds the Child Christ on her lap. He gives His blessing with His right hand while holding a scroll in His left hand. On her right side stands emperor John II Comnenus, represented in a garb embellished with precious stones. He holds a purse, symbol of an imperial donation to the church. Empress Irene stands on the left side of the Virgin, wearing ceremonial garments and offering a document.

circa 532 CE

The Deësis mosaic (Δέησις, "Entreaty") probably dates from 1261. It was commissioned to mark the end of 57 years of Roman Catholic use and the return to the Orthodox faith. It is the third panel situated in the imperial enclosure of the upper galleries. It is widely considered the finest in Hagia Sophia, because of the softness of the features, the humane expressions and the tones of the mosaic. The style is close to that of the Italian painters of the late 13th or early 14th century, such as Duccio. In this panel the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist (Ioannes Prodromos), both shown in three-quarters profile, are imploring the intercession of Christ Pantocrator for humanity on Judgment Day. The bottom part of this mosaic is badly deteriorated. This mosaic is considered as the beginning of the Renaissance in Byzantine pictorial art.

circa 532 CE

This features four unidentical angel figures. It is believed that these on headed six winged angels, also known as Seraphim, protect the Lord's throne in heaven. There are angels in the east composed in mosaics as where the ones in the west were damaged during the Eastern Roman Period, they have been renewed as fresco. During the Ottoman period the angels faces were covered with metallic lids in the shape of stars, but were removed to reveal the faces in 2009 during renovations.

circa 532 CE

On the wall to the right of the main entrance door of the outer narthex is the Tughra of Sultan Abdülmecid. Tughra was built by the Italian master N. Lanzoni from the golden gilded original mosaics of Hagia Sophia during the repairs carried out by the Fossati Brothers in Hagia Sophia in 1847-1849. Tughra, which was given to Sultan Abdülmecid by Fossati; round colored mosaic tessera (tessera) on the ground, green colored mosaics are processed. The outer border of the mosaic brick is adorned with dark blue colored single row mosaic beads. Mosaic monogram is very important in terms of design reflecting the Ottoman period and the material used reflects the Byzantine period.

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