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Church of Hagia Sophia

Over a long period of time the Hagia Sophia, which is a renovation of a former basilica, was believed to be the largest church in the whole world. Hagia Sophia was 1st named “Megale Ekklesia” which could be roughly translated to “The Great Church” since it is believed to be the largest church in Constantinople and even in the whole world. Socrates implied that Hagia Sophia was given the name Sophia during the time in power of the emperor, Constantius. This particular name of the church represents the 2nd divine quality of the Holy Trinity.

Initially, Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was a name which had been given to Christ by early theologians (Istanbul Mosques, 2007). For a long period of time the church was placed in the heart of two religions; the Christians and the Muslims. The Christians call the church as Hagia Sophia which means Church of the Holy Wisdom, and they consider it to be the church of the Orthodox faith, and of the Byzantine Empire, however the Muslims calls it Ayasofya Camii or Mosque of Holy Wisdom and jewel of Istanbul (Constantinople) and up to this point in time it still remains as one of the most main museum in Turkey.

The church had been renovated by Emperor Justinian in 532 AD and it became his greatest undertakings. In 1453 the church had been changed into a mosque and it was that time that the minarets were added in the place (Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church, 2005). The church could be located at the peak of the 1st hill in Istanbul at the apex of the celebrated peninsula. It is enclosed within the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, and it was erected by Emperor Justinian I around 532 AD.

The church is also situated in near the Great Palace of the emperors (Hippodrome) and the Church of Hagia Irene, and as was mentioned earlier, it was a renovation of a former basilica which was built by Theodosius II in 415. The said basilica was burned to the grounds in the Nika disturbances against Justinian I and Empress Theodora and after the revolt was taken care of the immediate reconstruction of the church was seen to by Justinian himself. It was Justinian who hired the physicist, Isidoros of Miletus and the mathematician Anthemios of Thales to construct a bigger and more enduring church than the one it was to replace.

This particular decision has got something to do with the emperor’s desire to unite the church and restate his authority. Nothing much was left with the previous churches it was to replace aside from the baptistery and the skeuphylakion which in turn is a circular edifice which is the lodging of the patriarchal riches and is positioned at the east of the baptistery. This edifice was made into an Ottoman crypt in the year of 1639 (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2002).

The grand dome of the church is an imposing and remarkable achievement during its time and people often think that the church represents the perpetuity of the universe indicated by the Holy Spirit. The Hagia Sophia was built and dedicated for the Holy Spirit. The earthquake which occurred in 557 ruined the grand dome. Five years past before the grand dome once again regained its former glory. The new dome which was built was taller than the first and it was supported with 40 ribs. The earthquakes in 859 and 989 caused some damage into the dome and it was in some measure, reconstructed after that calamity.

In the year of 1204, the year of the Latin foray which followed the 4th Crusade, the Hagia Sophia was looted and was re-established under the reign of Andronicos II. The great southeast arc of the church was damaged and was rebuilt prior to the earthquake of 1344. For thousands of years the church in question was looked upon as the Cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, except of course during the Latin invasion, and the building was seen as the core of Christian religion in the East from the year of 360 until the Ottoman renovation.

The Hagia Sophia’s significant role as the core of religious power in the Byzantine capital was made more complex by its position as the principal site for state rites and spectacles. The occupation of the Ottomans in the year of 1453 ended the reign of the Byzantine Empire and it signalled the start of the period of Islamic veneration in the holy edifice. It was Mehmed II who was responsible for the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. After his victory he immediately ordered the conversion of the church into a mosque (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2002).

It is during that time that the building was labelled Ayasofya Mosque. The church stayed as the great Mosque of the Ottoman capital. This state of affairs lasted until its secularization under the Turkish Republic which occurred in the year of 1934, however nothing much had been changed throughout the first alteration when a mihrab, a minber and a minaret made of wood were included in the construction of the edifice. Mehmed II also saw fit to construct a madrasa close to the mosque and he arranged a waqf for its costs.

Massive renovations were made by Mimar Sinan and this occurred in the reign of Selim II. It was also during this time that the 1st sultan accommodations were incorporated into the building. Mimar Sinan is also the one who constructed the Tomb of Selim II to the southeast part of the building in the year of 1577 and it was followed by the construction of the resting places of Murad III and Mehmed III in the year of 1600 (Ket, 2007). Mahmud I commanded that the mosque be renovated in the year of 1739.

It was then that an ablution fountain, Koranic school, soup kitchen and library had been added in the structure which in turn, transformed the mosque into some sort of a communal center. It is also probable that the most distinguished renovation of the church or mosque in question occurred and was accomplished in 1847 up to 1849 under the reign of Abdulmecid II, who issued an invitation to two Swiss architects namely Gaspare and Guiseppe Fossati to refurbish the said edifice.

Aside from joining the great dome and the tombs and making the pillar straight the Swiss architects also saw fit to modify the adornments of the exterior and interior side of the Hagia Sophia. The detection of the figural mosaics after the secularization of the church was directed by the accounts of the Swiss architects who found them a century before for cleansing and accountings, a previous account of the church mosaics are discovered in the travel drawings made by a Swedish engineer which went under the name of Cornelius Loos from 1710 up to 1711 (Mainstone, 1997).

The epoch of systematic learning, reinstallation and cleansing of the church which had been started by the Byzantine Institute of the United States and the Dumbarton Oaks Field Committee in the year of 1940 remains even up to this point in time and the archaeological investigation led by various archaeologists such as K. J. Conant, W.

Emerson and others have clarified various facets which is linked in the history, construction, and ornamentation of the Hagia Sophia. A. M. Schneider and F. Dirimtekin have made excavations on the remnants of the former churches which could be located outside Hagia Sophia (Wegner, 2007). A discussion assembled at the University of Princeton in 1989 paved way en route for a computer based structural formation of the Hagia Sophia and this was directed by Professor A.

Cakmak, this particular exertion also presented the foundation for a new renovation project which was in progress since the year of 1995 that centers on structural observation to weigh long term solidity of the edifice together with the historical refurbishment. The church was entered in the yearly list of 100 most imperiled memorials which was published by the World Monuments Fund in the year of 1996 and 1998, to safeguard funds which would be used on the restorations.

The church is also viewed to have important effect on the start of conventional Ottoman structural design and thus, the church is open to all as some kind of a public museum (Scala Publishers, 2007). The Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya Camii is a domed cathedral, tilting on the northwest-southeast axis and once one go through the northwest by means of an outer and inner narthex, one could see that the cathedral is made up of a rectangular nave edged by an passageway and an arcade on the sides and an apsidal asylum which is projecting southeast.

Every narthex in the basilica is made up of nine cross-vaulted recesses and the said narthexes were initially heralded by a huge foyer which is surrounded by an arcade, some pieces of which still remains in the year of 1870. The inner narthex is higher than and almost two times as wide as, the outer narthex, it also has a 2nd level which is connected to the nave colonnades, and it is lit by a line of clerestory windows which could be found in the northwest of the structure.

There are also passageways which are fastened to both of the inner narthex which provide an entryway to the corridor. The routes to the southeast was also used as a official entryway for the emperors, this entrance is decorated with a pair of sophisticated bronze doors with 9th century monograms, its inner door has a 10th century montage in its lunette which portrays Emperor Constantine and Emperor Justinian presenting models of Constantinople and of the church to the crowned Virgin Mary and Christ Pantocrator.

Whereas the outer narthex is mainly lacking in any kind of adornment, the partitions of the inner narthex are lined with polychrome marble panes and edged with a deep unbroken frescoes and its tombs are decorated with montages with geometric patterns and crosses which are positioned in a golden backdrop (Nelson, 2004).

There are a total of nine doors leading from the inner narthex into the nave, and the high entrance at the middle is called the Imperial Door and is crowned by a montage which shows the image of an emperor facing down before Christ Pantocrator and is bordered by depictions of the Virgin Mary and the Archangel, Gabriel. The nave is approximately two times as long as it is wide without the adjoining colonnades and it amounts to 73. 5 meters long and 69.

5 meters wide together with the colonnades, it has four alcoves at the corners and these are engraved into the gangway and colonnades. There is also a grand dome, hoisted 56 meters from the ground, crowning the nave, its forty panes which are positioned amid sustaining beams at the bottom, makes the notion of floating, and in its tip, initially decorated with a montage of Christ Pantocrator, is a calligraphic medallion which quotes the Light Verse (24:35), and this particular decoration was engraved by Mustafa Izzet Efendi at the time of the Fossati brothers refurbishment.

The load of the dome is bore on pendentives and four massive piers, which in turn, are joined by arcades which disconnect the passageway and colonnades. The passageway is considerably taller as compared to the colonnades, where the intercolumnal girth was intentionally kept slighter to keep up the proportion. In the northwest and southeast, there are single arches which are supported by huge semi-domes which gather the lateral weights and dispense it to the three slighter semi-domes which crown the nave recesses and the asylum apse (Nelson, 2004).

The extent of apparent distance presented by the central dome and the semi-domes was unparalleled at the time of the church’s creation. In the northeast and southeast heavy double arches and pier ramparts were constructed to deal with the lunges of the dome, the difference of the kind and power of structural foundation offered by these two buttressing organizations has eventually set off the oblique distortion of the dome pedestal, whose width ranges from 32.

2 meters on the longitudinal alignments up to 32. 7 meters along the sloping alignments. Additional reasons like the speed of the first creation and disproportionate renovations of vaulting all throughout the centuries have increased the upshots of the distortion which is also apparent on the piers as well as on the grand arches (Nelson, 2004).

Flying buttresses were added in the northwest frontage in the 9th or 10th century and this was complemented by the building of flying buttresses to the south and southeast by Andronicu II in the 13th century, altered by the Ottomans, these particular additions have changed the external form of the Hagia Sophia as well as the class of light within the nave and colonnades. The nave is covered with marble sheets, which were exposed prior to the removal of the prayer rugs which transpired in the year of 1934.

Its porphyry and verde antico pillars, which were collected from the pagan sanctuaries in Western Anatolia, are crowned with sophisticatedly engraved capitals that hold the monogram of Emperor Justinian I, the ornamental cornices which separates the passageway, the colonnade, and clerestory levels support the structure and offer imaginative foundation Mainstone, 1997). No figural montages which came from the original ornamentation of Hagia Sophia remained until the reign of Justinus II after the construction of the structure was through.

With regard to the montages which were set after the Iconoclastic period, most of them did not survive the natural calamities such as earthquakes and water damage. Some of the mosaics in question were also lost to the tourists which were drawn into the area. The oldest of the montage which was found in the Hagia Sophia was discovered in the apse semi-dome and it illustrates the image of the Virgin and her Child. Two angels were also portrayed on the semi-dome arch and the one on the right corner (which is much undamaged than the other one) is the portrait of the Archangel, Gabriel.

At the top (left and right) there are montages of local saints which were lined up underneath the clerestory windows and murals which depicts Seraphim embellish the pendentives, a great number of the montages remained concealed in the dome, whose roofing was newly refurnished in order to thwart water destruction throughout their preservation. There are a number of the renowned montages, as well as the Deisis panel and grand portraits, which were located in the southwest colonnade, which was used as a site for religious gatherings and rituals (Mainstone, 1997).

Many additions made on the church by the Ottomans are observable in the nave, and majority of these were altered at the time of the Fossati brothers refurbishments. Two of the previous Ottoman works are the two 16th century tile panels which are positioned to the right of the mihrab and which portray the Holy Ka’aba, the other one exhibits the burial place of the Prophet, a band of blue tiles with Koranin writings, dated 1607, enfold the asylum apsis underneath the window level, and the marble minbar is also believed to have originated in this era.

There are four marble stages adjoining the piers, these as well as the muezzin’s stage were constructed by Murad III in the late 16th century (Mainstone, 1997). Murad IV (1612-1640) made an addition of a marble preacher’s pulpit (kursu), positioned alongside the eastern alcove. In the years of 1847 up to 1849, the Fossati brothers (Swiss architects) worked hard to reconstruct the nihrab as well as the sultan’s lodgings in the current fashion and refurnished the sultan’s kiosk to the north of Hagia Sophi, which in turn, offered entryway into the lodging from the outside.

There are also eight gigantic disks which bears the names of God, the Prophet, the four Caliphs as well as the two sons of Ali, which were ordered to calligrapher Kazasker Izzet Efendi and substituted the older panels which hangs on the piers, these works have been retained in position prior to the secularization, while the other calligraphica panels were brought to the Sultanahmet Mosque and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. The formed iron chandeliers as well as the stained glass windows in the asylum also came during the times of the Fossati brothers’ renovation (Nelson, 2004).

The church in question has four minarest at their corners which were added at different times from one another, the brick minaret for one, which is located in the southern corner is ascribed to Mehmed II, another stone minaret was put to the north by Mimar Sinan at the time of his refurbishments. The last two minarets are exactly similar with each other and it could be traced back into the time of Murad III (Nelson, 2004). Currently, the Hagia Sophia is one of the most interesting tourist spots in Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya Camii is indeed one of the most exceptional structures ever made in the history of architecture and art from the Golden age of Byzantium and it played significant role in the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire and up to now, Christians and Muslims alike could still trace some of their religious history in the said edifice.

Works Cited

Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church. “Hagia Sophia. ” (2005). December 11, 2007 <http://www. byzantines. net/epiphany/hagiasophia. htm>. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. “Theecumenical Patriarchate. ” (2002). December 11, 2007 <http://www.goach. org/>. Istanbul Mosques. “Hagia Sophia Church. ” (2007). December 11, 2007 <http://www. istanbulhotelreservations. com/istanbul/churches/hagiasophiachurch. htm>. Ket. “The Church of Hagia Sophia. ” (2007) December 11, 2007 <http://www. dl. ket. org/humanities/connections/class/religions/hagia. htm>. Mainstone R. J. Hagia Sophia: Architecture, Structure, and Liturgy of Justinian’s Great Church. Thames and Hudson, 1997. Nelson, Robert S. Hagia Sophia, 1850-1950: Holy Wisdom Modern Monument. University of Chicago Press, 2004. Scala Publishers. Hagia Sophia. Scala Publishers, 2007.

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