Exhibitions/ Byzantium and Islam/ Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog/ Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia is the Orthodox Patriarchal church located in the former Byzantine capital, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey). It was originally built in 360 Only a few days after the destruction of the second church, the emperor Justinian I ordered the construction of a larger and more majestic structure. Justinian chose the physicist Isidore of Miletus and the mathematician Anthemius of Tralles as the architects in charge of the project.

Hagia Sophia is best known for its magnificent and massive dome supported by four concave triangular pendentives, making the whole structure appear to float. A dome this size was not re-created until a thousand years later, when Filippo Brunelleschi created the Duomo in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Hagia Sophia contained materials from all over the empire that highlighted the wealth and prosperity of the Byzantine kingdom. The interior was richly decorated with frescoes and mosaics, and the church possessed liturgical objects that were famed for their beauty and craftsmanship. During the Iconoclastic era, plaster covered many of the church's mosaics that contained images of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and emperors or empresses. The building was a feat of such power that when Justinian saw it for the first time he is said to have uttered the phrase "Solomon, I have surpassed you" (Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών). After Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453, Hagia Sophia was used as a mosque. In 1935 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk converted it to a museum.

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