Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)

Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)

The church of the 'Holy Wisdom', built in the Byzantine Empire, had been one of the largest religious buildings until 1935, when it was converted into a museum.

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Keywords

Hagia Sophia, basilica, mosque, minaret, church, museum, Ottoman, Byzantine, Turkish, Turkey, Constantinople, Istanbul, Bosphorus, Anatolia, orthodox, Muslim, Christian, god, Middle Ages, building, pilgrimage site, marble, Christ, apostle, architecture, emperor, seraph, religion, religious buildings, BYZANTINE EMPIRE, Ottoman Empire, upper gallery, dome, calligraphy

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Scenes

Hagia Sophia

  • buttresses
  • ruins of the former madrasa - This was the place of a school where people could study the Islamic religion.
  • baptistery - Now it serves as the tomb for Sultan Mustafa I and Sultan Ibrahim, although it was originally used as a baptistery.
  • public fountains - These structures charitably provide free drinking water for the passers-by.
  • fountain - It was built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1740. This is where the ritual washing is performed by Muslims before prayer.
  • elementary school
  • office - It was built by Sultan Abdülmecid I in 1853. Originally, it signalled the time of the prayers. Today it functions as an office.
  • public fountain - It charitably provides free drinking water for the passers-by.
  • tombs - These were built for distinguished Turkish people.
  • minaret - A tower-like structure erected at the side of mosques. Built with a spiral staircase inside, it is slim and becomes gradually narrower towards the top. The muezzin gives the call to prayer five times a day from its gallery.
  • dome - It is 55.6 m high and about 31 m in diameter.
  • tomb of Sultan Selim II - It was created in the 16th century by the famous Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan. He was commissioned by Sultan Selim II, son and successor of Suleiman the Magnificent to build his tomb during his lifetime.
  • tomb of Sultan Mehmed III - It was built in 1603 and contains 26 sarcophagi. Mehmed III was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1595 until 1603.
  • tomb of Sultan Murad III - The hexagonal, double-domed building contains 54 sarcophagi. Murad III was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1574 until 1595.
  • tomb of princes - Sultan Murad III commissioned Mimar Sinan to build this for his mother but it became the burial place of four of his sons and one of his daughters who died in the plague of 1580.
  • treasury building - It functioned as the almshouse's storage during the Ottoman Empire, but originally it was a treasury during the Byzantine Empire.
  • almshouse gate - It was built in the Baroque style and even features an epigraph that dates back to 1155.
  • almshouse - It was built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1743 to provide food for the poor and those in need.

Cutaway

Animation

Interior

  • sultan's loge
  • mihrab - This prayer niche in the wall of the mosque indicates the direction of Mecca. The two large, bronze candlesticks were brought here by Ibrahim, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, in 1526.
  • minbar - The imam stands on this raised platform to lead worship services.
  • muezzin's loge
  • Omphalion - Referred to as the 'navel of the earth', it was regarded as the centre of the world during the Byzantine Empire. It is a composition of circular marble slabs built into the floor. Byzantine emperors were crowned here.
  • Emperor Door - It was only used by the emperor and his entourage. Standing at 7 m tall, this door, which was built in the 6th century, is the largest door of Hagia Sophia.
  • marble cube - There are two of these placed at both sides of the main entrance. They were brought here from Pergamon (today known as Bergama) during the reign of Sultan Murad III. During celebrations they were filled with sorbet (sweet fruit drink), while on other days, they contained water for worshippers.
  • central dome
  • calligraphic pane - Measuring 7.5 m in diameter, the eight rounded, wooden medallions contain inscriptions that praise Allah, Muhammad and the four caliphs.

Interior

The light shining through the large number of windows and the glowing candles create a mystical atmosphere in the interior of the richly ornamented building.

The Omphalion, the wishing column, the gigantic calligraphic panes and the amazing mosaics all make the interior even more special.

Naturally, all the places related to Islamic religious practices, namely the minbar, mihrab and the muezzin's loge are also found here, along with the sultan's loge.

Central dome

Central dome

The central dome of the Hagia Sophia is 55.6 m high and about 31 m in diameter. This gigantic dome is held by four concave triangular pendentives that are supported by four massive pillars placed on the four corners of the building.

Upper gallery

Deesis mosaic

  • Deesis mosaic - It depicts Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. It was made of tiny pieces in the 13th century.
  • marble door

Deesis mosaic

Created in the 13th century, the Deesis mosaic is one of the masterpieces of Byzantine art.
Sadly enough, only a fraction of it survived. It depicts Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist with remarkable detail: even the blush on Mary's face and John's wrinkles can be seen.

Walk

  • sultan's loge
  • mihrab - This prayer niche in the wall of the mosque indicates the direction of Mecca. The two large, bronze candlesticks were brought here by Ibrahim, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, in 1526.
  • minbar - The imam stands on this raised platform to lead worship services.
  • muezzin's loge
  • Omphalion - Referred to as the 'navel of the earth', it was regarded as the centre of the world during the Byzantine Empire. It is a composition of circular marble slabs built into the floor. Byzantine emperors were crowned here.
  • Emperor Door - It was only used by the emperor and his entourage. Standing at 7 m tall, this door, which was built in the 6th century, is the largest door of Hagia Sophia.
  • marble cube - There are two of these placed at both sides of the main entrance. They were brought here from Pergamon (today known as Bergama) during the reign of Sultan Murad III. During celebrations they were filled with sorbet (sweet fruit drink), while on other days, they contained water for worshippers.
  • central dome
  • calligraphic pane - Measuring 7.5 m in diameter, the eight rounded, wooden medallions contain inscriptions that praise Allah, Muhammad and the four caliphs.
  • library - It was built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1739.
  • wishing column - Legend has it that it grants a wish if someone touches it. It is also called the perspiring column as there is a reservoir under it from which it absorbs moisture which then precipitates.
  • Deesis mosaic - It depicts Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. It was made of tiny pieces in the 13th century.
  • marble door

Narration

The Hagia Sophia, the church of 'Holy Wisdom' is located in Istanbul, Turkey. The building has an eventful history spanning over one-and-a-half millennia.

The original church was built in the 4th century by the son of Constantine the Great, who had founded the new Roman capital there. Having been destroyed and rebuilt several times, the church took its final form in the 6th century. Later, in the 13th century, the Crusaders temporarily converted this great Eastern Orthodox church into a Roman Catholic one.

When Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II ordered that the building should be changed into a mosque. The four minarets were added in the second half of the 16th century. The building functioned as one of the principal mosques of Islam until 1931, when it was closed. After the reforms in the Republic of Turkey it was re-opened as a museum in 1934.

This Byzantine-style Orthodox basilica is an architectural masterpiece and it is often cited as a perfect synthesis of Byzantine architectural elements. The most special feature of the building is the complex dome structure. It was an architectural achievement, due to the dimensions of the main dome (56 m in height and 31 m in diameter) and its support system. There are forty arched windows placed around the base of the dome, which gives the dome the appearance of hovering above the nave.

On the western and eastern sides the arches continue in semi-domes supported by smaller semi-domed exedras. Thus, the impressive size of the building's interior is further expanded. The nave is surrounded by two ambulatories, with an arched colonnade on the ground floor and a colonnaded upper gallery. The contrast of the interior and the exterior of the building resulted from precise planning: the interior of the simple, massive building was airy and richly decorated.

This great structure, the last architectural achievement of late antiquity and first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture (together with other structures of the Historical Part of Istanbul), was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites in 1985.

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