What is Hagia Sophia?

Hagia Sophia is a Turkish Ayasofya (derived from a Greek word meaning “Holy Wisdom”). It is built after the defeat of Ottoman (military conflicts between Ottoman empire and various European countries). Hagia is properly called as “Grand mosque” and previously called as church of Hagia located in populous city (Istanbul) of Turkey.

Hagia acts as the long-term enduring symbol of cosmopolitan city as Eiffel tower in Paris. The first site establishment of Hagia is built during 360 A.D. The construction was commissioned by Byzantine Empire. It is considered as first church of Istanbul known as Constantinople. The name Constantinople was taken from the first ruler of Byzantine Empire called Constantine I.

Initially, Hagia was built as the basilica (hall/ space where the people assemble to pray together) for the Greek Orthodox Christian Church. Later its functions changed several times during centuries.

Reason why Hagia buried twice?

First the Hagia was showcased using wooden roof. The construction site was burnt down in 404 A.D due to violent disturbance occurred in Constantinople. This violence is the outbreak of the political conflicts within the family of Emperor Arkadios (who leads the noisy royal office).

Next the successor of Arkadios, took initiative and rebuilt the Hagia for the second time. Construction site was completed around 415 A.D. The second structure of Hagia includes: Five naves (act as the central part of the church, designed for the purpose of gathering group of people to worship). In traditional period, it was designed as rectangular naves, separated from chancel (space built near idol offering table); seats; and pillars. It also involves significant entrance and showcased by wooden roof as before.

After a century ago, the Hagia was again burnt down by Nika revolts (known to be the most powerful riots in city’s history). War was burst out between Nika and Emperor Justinian I who ruled Constantinople during 527 to 565 A.D.

The damage caused by fire during Nika revolts was unrepairable. So, the Emperor Justinian decided to demolish the church and took a lead to rebuild the Hagia church which stands stable till today. He arranged two famous architects: Isidoros (Milet) and Anthemios for constructing the basilica. It took six years to rebuild Hagia (532 to 537 A.D) and first pray service was held on December 27, 537 A.D. During this prayer assembly the emperor Justinian left a note saying, “My Lord, thank you for giving me the chance to create such a worshipping place.”

Third construction site of Hagia!

Comparing with last two erection site of Hagia, third one is addressed to be the amazing site of all. It was built based on focusing the traditional norms of basilica (church) with large and domed roof (half sphere shaped structure); narthex entrance (long and narrow opening of the church); and semi-domed altar (table built to serve offerings to idol).

The roof of the church is supported by arches which is covered with mosaics of six winged angels called hexapterygon. The grand church represents the norms of Byzantine Empire and Emperor Justinian. The church was built by following the set of procedures and architectural ideas shared by the Emperor.

Specific details of site!

The floor and ceilings of the church are made up of marbles, which is produced in Anatolia (eastern part of Turkey) and Syria. The bricks used in walls and some part of the floors are imported from North Africa. The slabs of the church are designed with marbles to imitate the movement of water.

The church Hagia consists of 104 columns which are imported from Egypt as well the temple of Artemis in Ephesus (the Goddess Artemis was worshipped for fertility. The appearance of the Goddess looks like, wearing strings of eggs around her shoulders and chest).

The height of the church Hagia measures length 269 feet and width around 240 feet. The domed roof at the top stretches to 180 feet in the air. During the first attack of Ottoman’s, the roof of the church got collapsed. The roof was redesigned by Isidore’s nephew in the most noticeable way and with structural arches.

The center of the domed roof (peak of roof) is supported by ring windows; semi-domed roofs; and two arches. The walls are lined with mosaics which shows detailed information of Byzantine. Those walls are made from gold, silver, glass, terra cotta (variety of fired clay) and colorful stones. It also portrays the scenes and figures of four Christian gospels (New testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

History of Hagia!

As the establishment of Hagia was first done by empire Byzantines, this place is called as church of faith and all crowning ceremonies of the empire generations are held here. The floor of the church shows a large circular marble sections known as Omphalion (derived from a Greek word meaning navel of the earth).

The church of Hagia plays an important role in Byzantine’s empire for around 900 years from its first existence.

During 13th century, the outbreak of war between Roman and Byzantine’s took place in the city of Constantinople. The war ends in the defeat of Byzantine and most of the city was taken controlled by Crusades. Burst out of this war had completely collapsed the church of Hagia. After the Byzantine’s took back the control of city Constantinople, redesigned the structure of Hagia.

But the period of this redesigned Hagia last less than for 200 years. Again, war began by Ottomans, led by Emperor Fatih Sultan Mehmed known as Mehmed the Conqueror. The city was captured by crusades and renamed as Istanbul.

Transformation of Church into Mosque!

City Istanbul was conquered by the Islam empire, so they decided to transform the church Hagia into mosque. Covered up the things which resemble orthodox basilica. The theme of Christian is covered by mosaics with Islamic calligraphy designed by Kazasker Mustafa İzzet.

They also made panels or medallions in the name of Allah; the Prophet Muhammad (founder of Islam. Acts as Arab religious and social leader); the first four Caliphs (Islamic Community: Abu Bakr, Umar, Ali, Uthman); and the Prophet’s two grandsons hung on the columns (pillars) of the Hagia.

The mosaic on the dome roof has image of Christ which also covered by gold calligraphy (handwritten lettering). A mihrab (semicircular niche where statues are placed) was installed in the wall of the Hagia which indicates the direction to Mecca (one of the holly cities of Islam).

Additionally, the Ottoman Emperor Kanuni Sultan Suleyman (1520 to 1566) installed two bronze lamps on each side of the mihrab and Sultan Murad III (1574 to 1595) added two marble cubes from the Turkish city of Bergama, which represents the period of 4 B.C.

Four minarets (includes base, shaft, a cap and head) were also added to the building which partly represents the religious prayer call for Islam and designed in the way to get rid of attacks from earthquakes.

During the period of Sultan Abdulmecid between 1847 and 1849, mosque Hagia was renovated extensively (transforms the church into mosque completely) by Swiss architects the Fossati brothers (Brothers: Gaspare and Giuseppe had completed over 50 projects in Turkey during Tanzimat era nothing but formation of new educational system; assemblies; commercial and criminal laws.). At this time, Hunkar Mahfili (separate room for prayer hall) has been removed and constructed new one near the mihrab.

Hagia today!

Even after the fall of Ottoman (some 100 years ago till today), Hagia plays pivotal role both in religious and political issues. Remains controversial as usual. After the republic of Turkey in 1935, Ataturk the first president decided to operate Hagia as museum by national government. Reports says more than three million people visited the place annually.

By 2013, all the Islamic religious leader joined hands together and sought back to open Hagia as Mosque. During 21th century, society rise their favor in supporting the leaders and recognized Ottoman era (fundamental part of country’s history).

Capture of Istanbul and Hagia from Greek by Ottoman is considered to be one of the greatest achievements. So many advocates filed case regarding Hagia to be turned as mosque.

After 86 years, the judgement was passed in favor of Islam and first prayer of mosque held on 24th July 2020 (Friday).

I conclude here, the article will give clear view of before/after of Hagia Sophia! 

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