Hagia Sophia-Turkey

Hagia Sophia-Turkey

The old Roman outpost of Byzantium made for an extraordinary trading city because it possessed water on three different sides and could be easily defended.  When Emperor Constantine moved the Roman capital to Byzantium in the 4th century CE and renamed it Constantinople, the Eastern Roman Empire flourished until the 15th century.  During Emperor Justinian’s reign in the 6th century, the city, now fully Christian, built the Hagia Sophia, by far the largest building of its kind in the world at the time.  Before Justinian’s domed Church the space was already considered sacred because of an old temple devoted to the Greek goddess Aphrodite.  Justinian commissioned brilliant masons, artists, and even mathematicians to construct the inspirational church of Holy Wisdom.

Hagia Sophia-Turkey

flickr image by CYM2008

The center for the Eastern Orthodox Christian church, the Hagia Sophia reigned as the spiritual apex for Orthodox Christians before the religion blossomed in Greece and eastern Europe in general.  After the city was captured and occupied by the Muslim Ottoman Turks in the 15th century, the Hagia Sophia was the site of a massacre of praying Christians.  However, the eventual ruler of the city, Sultan Mehmet II, converted the sacred space into a Mosque, rededicating the beautiful site for a third time in its long history.  A certain genius of Ottoman architecture is still visible to this day as the Turks added a minaret, medallions bearing the name of Allah, Mohammed, and a glorious marble throne.  When the Ottoman empire collapsed at the beginning of the 20th century, the Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum and restored.

Hagia Sophia-Turkey

flickr image by Noah’s Dad

Today it is a major tourist attraction, which caters to a strong variety of visitors.  Christians are still awed by the enormous dome, while Muslims, who are still the majority in Turkey, are equally impressed.  Historians and photographers can make good use of the grounds as well through close study.  The architecture is a curious and rare mixture of early and medieval Christian and medieval and pre-modern Turkish.  Sprinkled in are remnants undoubtedly from the earliest strata, which belong to the Classical Greeks.  By far the most visible aspect of the Hagia Sophia’s architecture is its dome.  It is held up by pendentives, an unique type of support device, which is triangular, had never been used before the construction of this particular dome.  Aesthetically, they are pleasing to the eye, forming symmetrical lines along the dome and the dome’s base.  Adding to the spiritual aura of the place are the 40 windows encircling the base of the dome.  During a day with clear blue skies, the light projecting through these windows creates a glowing appearance, giving the illusion of divinity passing through the windows and into the Church/Mosque.  This effect by itself makes the visit significant, as it is a magical visual effect which is unmatched at any monument built during late antiquity.  Although it is now called Istanbul, the city encompasses the Hagia Sophia as if it protects its prized gem, and perhaps rightfully so.  Traveling to the Hagia Sophia is not difficult as Istanbul is fully modernized with a large international airport.

Date posted: 1st February, 2014

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