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Hagia Sophia Mosque

Hagia Sophia

Well worth seeing church, mosque and museum from Byzantine Empire. UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
Hagia Sophia (lit. ‘Holy Wisdom’; Turkish: Ayasofya; Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, romanized: Hagía Sophía; Latin: Sancta Sapientia), officially the Hagia Sophia Mosque (Turkish: Ayasofya-i Kebir Cami-i Şerifi),[3] is a mosque and a major cultural and historical site in Istanbul, Turkey. The last of three church buildings to be successively erected on the site by the Eastern Roman Empire, it was completed in 537 AD. The site was an Eastern Orthodox church from 360 AD to 1204, when it was converted to a Catholic church following the Fourth Crusade.[4] It was reclaimed in 1261 and remained Eastern Orthodox until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. It served as a mosque until 1935, when it became a museum. In 2020, the site once again became a mosque. The current structure was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I as the Christian cathedral of Constantinople for the Byzantine Empire between 532 and 537, and was designed by the Greek geometers Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles.[5] It was formally called the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Greek: Ναὸς τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας, romanized: Naòs tês Hagías toû Theoû Sophías)[6][clarification needed] and upon completion became the world’s largest interior space and among the first to employ a fully pendentive dome. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture[7] and is said to have “changed the history of architecture”.[8] The present Justinianic building was the third church of the same name to occupy the site, as the prior one had been destroyed in the Nika riots. As the episcopal see of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, it remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. Beginning with subsequent Byzantine architecture, Hagia Sophia became the paradigmatic Orthodox church form, and its architectural style was emulated by Ottoman mosques a thousand years later.[9] It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world”[9] and as an architectural and cultural icon of Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox civilization.[10][11][9] The religious and spiritual centre of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years, the church was dedicated to the Holy Wisdom.[12][13][14] It was where the excommunication of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius was officially delivered by Humbert of Silva Candida, the envoy of Pope Leo IX in 1054, an act considered the start of the East–West Schism. In 1204, it was converted during the Fourth Crusade into a Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire, before being returned to the Eastern Orthodox Church upon the restoration of the Byzantine Empire in 1261. Enrico Dandolo, the doge of Venice who led the Fourth Crusade and the 1204 Sack of Constantinople, was buried in the church. After the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453,[15] it was converted to a mosque by Mehmed the Conqueror and became the principal mosque of Istanbul until the 1616 construction of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.[16][17] Upon its conversion, the bells, altar, iconostasis, ambo, and baptistery were removed, while iconography, such as the mosaic depictions of Jesus, Mary, Christian saints and angels were removed or plastered over.[18] Islamic architectural additions included four minarets, a minbar and a mihrab. The Byzantine architecture of the Hagia Sophia served as inspiration for many other religious buildings including the Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki, Panagia Ekatontapiliani, the Şehzade Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque and the Kılıç Ali Pasha Complex. The patriarchate moved to the Church of the Holy Apostles, which became the city’s cathedral. The complex remained a mosque until 1931, when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum under the secular Republic of Turkey, and the building was Turkey’s most visited tourist attraction as of 2019.[19] In July 2020, the Council of State annulled the 1934 decision to establish the museum, and the Hagia Sophia was reclassified as a mosque. The 1934 decree was ruled to be unlawful under both Ottoman and Turkish law as Hagia Sophia’s waqf, endowed by Sultan Mehmed, had designated the site a mosque; proponents of the decision argued the Hagia Sophia was the personal property of the sultan. The decision to designate Hagia Sophia as a mosque was highly controversial and drew condemnation from the Turkish opposition, UNESCO, the World Council of Churches and the International Association of Byzantine Studies, as well as numerous international leaders. History Church of Constantius II Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey, ca. 1897. The first church on the site was known as the Magna Ecclesia (Μεγάλη Ἐκκλησία, Megálē Ekklēsíā, ‘Great Church’)[20][21] because of its size compared to the sizes of the contemporary churches in the city.[12] According to the Chronicon Paschale, the church was consecrated on 15 February 360, during the reign of the emperor Constantius II (r. 337–361) by the Arian bishop Eudoxius of Antioch.[22][23] It was built next to the area where the Great Palace was being developed. According to the 5th-century ecclesiastical historian Socrates of Constantinople, the emperor Constantius had c. 346 “constructed the Great Church alongside that called Irene which because it was too small, the emperor’s father [Constantine] had enlarged and beautified”.[24][22] A tradition which is not older than the 7th or 8th century reports that the edifice was built by Constantius’ father, Constantine the Great (r. 306–337).[22] Hesychius of Miletus wrote that Constantine built Hagia Sophia with a wooden roof and removed 427 (mostly pagan) statues from the site.[25] The 12th-century chronicler Joannes Zonaras reconciles the two opinions, writing that Constantius had repaired the edifice consecrated by Eusebius of Nicomedia, after it had collapsed.[22] Since Eusebius was the bishop of Constantinople from 339 to 341, and Constantine died in 337, it seems that the first church was erected by Constantius.[22] View of the dome interior The nearby Hagia Irene (“Holy Peace”) church was completed earlier and served as cathedral until the Great Church was completed. Besides Hagia Irene, there is no record of major churches in the city-centre before the late 4th century.[23] Rowland Mainstone argued the 4th-century church was not yet known as Hagia Sophia.[26] Though its name as the ‘Great Church’ implies that it was larger than other Constantinopolitan churches, the only other major churches of the 4th century were the Church of St Mocius, which lay outside the Constantinian walls and was perhaps attached to a cemetery, and the Church of the Holy Apostles.[23] The church itself is known to have had a timber roof, curtains, columns, and an entrance that faced west.[23] It likely had a narthex and is described as being shaped like a Roman circus.[27] This may mean that it had a U-shaped plan like the basilicas of San Marcellino e Pietro and Sant’Agnese fuori le mura in Rome.[23] However, it may also have been a more conventional three-, four-, or five-aisled basilica, perhaps resembling the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem or the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.[23] The building was likely preceded by an atrium, as in the later churches on the site.[28] According to Ken Dark and Jan Kostenec, a further remnant of the 4th century basilica may exist in a wall of alternating brick and stone banded masonry immediately to the west of the Justinianic church.[29] The top part of the wall is constructed with bricks stamped with brick-stamps dating from the 5th century, but the lower part is of constructed with bricks typical of the 4th century.[29] This wall was probably part of the propylaeum at the west front of both the Constantinian and Theodosian Great Churches.[29] The building was accompanied by a baptistery and a skeuophylakion.[23] A hypogeum, perhaps with an martyrium above it, was discovered before 1946, and the remnants of a brick wall with traces of marble revetment were identified in 2004.[29] The hypogeum was a tomb which may have been part of the 4th-century church or may have been from the pre-Constantinian city of Byzantium.[29] The skeuophylakion is said by Palladius to have had a circular floor plan, and since some U-shaped basilicas in Rome were funerary churches with attached circular mausolea (the Mausoleum of Constantina and the Mausoleum of Helena), it is possible it originally had a funerary function, though by 405 its use had changed.[29] A later account credited a woman called Anna with donating the land on which the church was built in return for the right to be buried there.[29] Excavations on the western side of the site of the first church under the propylaeum wall reveal that the first church was built atop a road about 8 m (26 ft) wide.[29] According to early accounts, the first Hagia Sophia was built on the site of an ancient pagan temple,[30][31][32] although there are no artefacts to confirm this.[33] The Patriarch of Constantinople John Chrysostom came into a conflict with Empress Aelia Eudoxia, wife of the emperor Arcadius (r. 383–408), and was sent into exile on 20 June 404. During the subsequent riots, this first church was largely burnt down.[22] Palladius noted that the 4th-century skeuophylakion survived the fire.[34] According to Dark and Kostenec, the fire may only have affected the main basilica, leaving the surrounding ancillary buildings intact.[34] Church of Theodosius II Theodosian capital for a column, one of the few remains of the church of Theodosius II A second church on the site was ordered by Theodosius II (r. 402–450), who inaugurated it on 10 October 415.[35] The Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae, a fifth-century list of monuments, names Hagia Sophia as Magna Ecclesia, ‘Great Church’, while the former cathedral Hagia Irene is referred to as Ecclesia Antiqua, ‘Old Church’. At the time of Socrates of Constantinople around 440, “both churches [were] enclosed by a single wall and served by the same clergy”.[24] Thus, the complex would have encompassed a large area including the future site of the Hospital of Samson.[34] If the fire of 404 destroyed only the 4th-century main basilica church, then the 5th century Theodosian basilica could have been built surrounded by a complex constructed primarily during the fourth century.[34] During the reign of Theodosius II, the emperor’s elder sister, the Augusta Pulcheria (r. 414–453) was challenged by the patriarch Nestorius (r. 10 April 428 – 22 June 431).[36][37] The patriarch denied the Augusta access to the sanctuary of the “Great Church”, likely on 15 April 428.[37] According to the anonymous Letter to Cosmas, the virgin empress, a promoter of the cult of the Virgin Mary who habitually partook in the Eucharist at the sanctuary of Nestorius’s predecessors, claimed right of entry because of her equivalent position to the Theotokos – the Virgin Mary – “having given birth to God”.[38][37] Their theological differences were part of the controversy over the title theotokos that resulted in the Council of Ephesus and the stimulation of Monophysitism and Nestorianism, a doctrine, which like Nestorius, rejects the use of the title.[36] Pulcheria along with Pope Celestine I and Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria had Nestorius overthrown, condemned at the ecumenical council, and exiled.[38][36] The area of the western entrance to the Justinianic Hagia Sophia revealed the western remains of its Theodosian predecessor, as well as some fragments of the Constantinian church.[34] German archaeologist Alfons Maria Schneider began conducting archaeological excavations during the mid-1930s, publishing his final report in 1941.[34] Excavations in the area that had once been the 6th-century atrium of the Justinianic church revealed the monumental western entrance and atrium, along with columns and sculptural fragments from both 4th- and 5th-century churches.[34] Further digging was abandoned for fear of harming the structural integrity of the Justinianic building, but parts of the excavation trenches remain uncovered, laying bare the foundations of the Theodosian building. The basilica was built by architect Rufinus.[39][40] The church’s main entrance, which may have had gilded doors, faced west, and there was an additional entrance to the east.[41] There was a central pulpit and likely an upper gallery, possibly employed as a matroneum (women’s section).[41] The exterior was decorated with elaborate carvings of rich Theodosian-era designs, fragments of which have survived, while the floor just inside the portico was embellished with polychrome mosaics.[34] The surviving carved gable end from the centre of the western façade is decorated with a cross-roundel.[34] Fragments of a frieze of reliefs with 12 lambs representing the 12 apostles also remain; unlike Justinian’s 6th-century church, the Theodosian Hagia Sophia had both colourful floor mosaics and external decorative sculpture.[34] At the western end, surviving stone fragments of the structure show there was vaulting, at least at the western end.[34] The Theodosian building had a monumental propylaeum hall with a portico that may account for this vaulting, which was thought by the original excavators in the 1930s to be part of the western entrance of the church itself.[34] The propylaeum opened onto an atrium which lay in front of the basilica church itself. Preceding the propylaeum was a steep monumental staircase following the contours of the ground as it sloped away westwards in the direction of the Strategion, the Basilica, and the harbours of the Golden Horn.[34] This arrangement would have resembled the steps outside the atrium of the Constantinian Old St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.[34] Near the staircase, there was a cistern, perhaps to supply a fountain in the atrium or for worshippers to wash with before entering.[34] The 4th-century skeuophylakion was replaced in the 5th century by the present-day structure, a rotunda constructed of banded masonry in the lower two levels and of plain brick masonry in the third.[34] Originally this rotunda, probably employed as a treasury for liturgical objects, had a second-floor internal gallery accessed by an external spiral staircase and two levels of niches for storage.[34] A further row of windows with marble window frames on the third level remain bricked up.[34] The gallery was supported on monumental consoles with carved acanthus designs, similar to those used on the late 5th-century Column of Leo.[34] A large lintel of the skeuophylakion’s western entrance – bricked up during the Ottoman era – was discovered inside the rotunda when it was archaeologically cleared to its foundations in 1979, during which time the brickwork was also repointed.[34] The skeuophylakion was again restored in 2014 by the Vakıflar.[34] A fire started during the tumult of the Nika Revolt, which had begun nearby in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, and the second Hagia Sophia was burnt to the ground on 13–14 January 532. The court historian Procopius wrote:[42]