Hagia Sophia

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Image:Aya sofya.jpg
Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, (the Church of) Holy Wisdom, now known as the Ayasofya Museum, is a former Eastern Orthodox church converted to a mosque in 1453 by the Turks, and converted into a museum in 1935. It is located in Istanbul, Turkey. It is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest buildings of the world. Its conquest by the Ottomans at the fall of Constantinople is considered one of the great tragedies of Christianity by the Greek Orthodox faithful.

The name comes from the Greek name Ἁγία Σοφία, a contraction of Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας, meaning "Church of the Holy Wisdom of God". It is also known as Sancta Sophia in Latin and Ayasofya in Turkish. Although it is sometimes called "Saint Sophia" in English, it is not named for a saint called Sophia - the Greek word sofia means "wisdom."


[edit] Description

Hagia Sophia is covered by a central dome with a diameter of 31 meters (102 feet) and 56 meters high, 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 — four concave triangular sections of masonry which solve 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 western (entrance) and eastern (liturgical) ends, the arched openings are extended by half domes carried on smaller semidomed exedras. Thus a hierarchy of dome-headed elements builds up to create a vast oblong interior crowned by the main dome, a sequence unexampled in antiquity. 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.

[edit] Construction

A section of the original architecture of Hagia Sophia

Nothing remains of the first church that was built on the same site during the 4th century. Following the destruction of the first church, a second was built by Constantius II, the son of Constantine I, but was burned down during the Nika riots of 532. The building was rebuilt under the personal supervision of Emperor Justinian I and rededicated on December 27, 537.

Justinian chose Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, a physicist and a mathematician, as architects; Anthemius, however, died within the first year. The construction is described in Procopius' On Buildings (De Aedificiis). The Byzantine poet Paulus the Silentiary composed an extant poetic ekphrasis, probably for the rededication of 563, which followed the collapse of the main dome.

Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples 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 proclaimed "Solomon, I have surpassed thee!" (Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών). Justinian himself had overseen the completion of the greatest cathedral ever built up to that time, and it was to remain the largest cathedral for 1,000 years up until the completion of the cathedral in Seville.

Interior of the Hagia Sophia, June 1994

Justinian's basilica was at once the culminating architectural achievement of late antiquity and the first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Its influence, both architecturally and liturgically, was widespread and enduring in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim worlds alike. Under Justinian's orders, eight Corinthian columns were disassembled from Baalbek, Lebanon and shipped to Constantinople for the construction of Hagia Sophia.<ref>Baalbek keeps its secrets</ref>

The dome of the Hagia Sophia has spurred particular interest for many art historians and architects because of the innovative way the original architects envisioned the dome. The dome is supported by pendentives which had never been used before the building of this structure. The pendentive enables the round dome to transition gracefully into the square shape of the piers below. The pendentives not only achieve a pleasing aesthetic quality, but they also restrain the lateral forces of the dome and allow the weight of the dome to flow downward.

Although this design stabilizes the dome and the surrounding walls and arches, the actual construction of the walls of the Hagia Sophia weakened the overall structure. The bricklayers used more mortar than brick, which, of course, constitutes a weak wall. The structure would have been more stable if the builders at least let the mortar dry before they began the next layer, however, they did not do this. When the dome was placed atop the building, the weight of the dome caused the walls to lean outward because of the wet mortar underneath. When Isidorus the Younger rebuilt the original dome, he had to first build up the interior of the walls so that they were vertical in order to support the weight of the new dome. Another probable change in the design of the dome when it was rebuilt was the actual height of the dome. Isidorus the Younger raised the height of the dome by approximately twenty feet so that the lateral forces would not be as strong and the weight of the dome would flow more easily down the walls.

A second interesting fact about the original structure of the dome was how the architects were able to place forty windows around the base of the dome. The Hagia Sophia is famous for the mystical quality of light that reflects everywhere in the interior of the nave, which gives the dome the appearance of hovering above the nave. This design is possible because the dome is shaped like a scalloped shell or the inside of an umbrella with ribs that extend from the top of the dome down to the base. These ribs allow the weight of the dome to flow between the windows, down the pendentives, and ultimately to the foundation.

The anomalies in the design of the Hagia Sophia show how this structure is one of the most advanced and ambitious monuments of late antiquity.

[edit] History

Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for Byzantine imperial ceremonies.

The structure has been severely damaged several times by earthquakes. The dome collapsed after an earthquake in 558; its replacement fell in 563. There were additional partial collapses in 989 after which an Armenian architect named Trdat was commissioned to repair the damage. During the Latin Occupation (1204-1261) the church became a Roman Catholic cathedral. After the Turks invaded Constantinople, Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque in 1453. In 1935, under the orders of Turkish president Kemal Atatürk, Hagia Sophia was turned into the Ayasofya Museum.

For almost 500 years the principal mosque of Istanbul, Ayasofya served as model for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.

Because Islam considers the depiction of the human form to be blasphemous[citation needed], many mosaics were destroyed and others were covered with plaster. The Ottoman Sultans, however, periodically removed the plaster to service and maintain the mosaics, before replastering. Many restorations and repairs were done by Ottoman architects. The most famous and extensive work was done by Mimar Sinan in the 16th century, which included the addition of structural supports to the exterior of the building, the replacement of the old minarets with the minarets that stand today, and the addition of Islamic pulpits and art.

The 19th century restoration of the Fossati brothers, which included the addition of a pulpit (minbar) and the four medallions on the walls of the nave bearing the names of Muhammad and the first caliphs, destroyed many of the original mosaics.

[edit] 20th-century restoration

Image:Aya Sophia Under Restoration.jpg
The interior of the dome undergoing restoration.

Restoration work in the 20th century was begun in 1932 by the American Byzantine Institute, during which most of the figures were uncovered.

Due to its long history as both a church and a mosque, a particular challenge arises in the restoration process. The Christian iconographic mosaics are being gradually uncovered. However, in order to do so, important, historic Islamic art would have to be destroyed. Restorers have attempted to maintain a balance between both Christian and Islamic cultures. In particular, much controversy rests upon whether the Islamic calligraphy on the dome of the cathedral should be removed, in order to permit the underlying Pantocrator mosaic of Christ as Master of the World, to be exhibited (assuming the mosaic still exists).

[edit] Restoration controversies

Work has reportedly been purposely slow on the Hagia Sophia due to its important position and symbolism within the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church has claimed that the Turkish Government has denied offers to provide monetary assistance for the further restoration of Hagia Sophia in order to downplay its importance. Some Orthodox and Catholic Christians have gone so far as to demand the return of Hagia Sophia to the Orthodox Christian religion as a condition of Turkey's entry into the European Union.

In 2002 Reuters reported that many mosaics and icons stored in the basement of the cathedral had been damaged by moisture; this has caused some to question whether the Turkish authorities were capable of preserving the monument. It was further pointed out in 2005 that the scaffolding beneath the dome of the cathedral had been placed there since 1995 without restoration of the dome being completed, again giving rise to questions whether such restoration work was genuine.

[edit] Gallery

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Photos and paintings

[edit] References

[edit] Notes


ar:آيا صوفيا

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Hagia Sophia

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