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    x0x AYASOFYA By Sengul G. AYDINGUN From the time it was built Haghia Sophia, the Church of Divine Wisdom, has astonished and entranced all who beheld it, with
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2002
      x0x AYASOFYA

      By Sengul G. AYDINGUN

      From the time it was built Haghia Sophia, the Church of Divine Wisdom, has
      astonished and entranced all who beheld it, with its great dome
      symbolising unattainable infinity. Haghia Sophia was used as a church for
      916 years and as a mosque for 481, so serving as a place of worship for
      nearly one and a half millennia. When it was first built it was known as
      the Megale Ekklesia or Great Church. After the Turkish conquest it was
      converted into a mosque, but continued to be known by the Turkish
      rendering of its Greek name, Ayasofya. In 1934, at the wish of Mustafa
      Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, the Council of Ministers
      turned the building into a museum.Haghia Sophia was constructed by the
      Byzantine emperor Justinian between 532 and 537. It was the third church
      of this name on the same site. The first was a basilica erected on the
      site of a former Roman temple, and according to the historian Socrates was
      dedicated on 15 February 360.

      It was destroyed by fire in the year 404 in an uprising against Emperor

      The second church was built by Emperor Theodosius II and dedicated on 10
      October 415, only to be burnt down in the Nika Revolt on 13 January 532,
      during the fifth year of the reign of Justinian I (527-565).After crushing
      the revolt Justinian commanded that a new church be built on a far grander
      scale than the previous two. The chronicler Procopius relates that two
      architects, Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, were appointed
      for the task. One hundred master craftsmen, one thousand journeymen, and
      ten thousand labourers were employed.

      Justinian wanted the church to be completed in the shortest possible time,
      and sent orders out to all the provinces of his realm commanding that
      columns and marbles from ancient cities be sent to Istanbul.

      Shiploads arrived from Syria, Egypt and Greece as well as from Asia
      Minor.Construction commenced on 23 February 532 and apart from the
      decoration was completed in the astonishingly short time of 5 years 10
      months and 24 days.

      The church was dedicated on 27 December 537 at a magnificent opening
      ceremony. Justinian drove up to the church in his victory chariot, and was
      welcomed in the atrium by Patriarch Menas. The two men entered the church
      hand in hand. Justinian was so impressed by its splendour, that he
      exclaimed, `Thanks be to God for blessing me with the good fortune of
      constructing such a place of worship.' At the inauguration one thousand
      bulls, six thousand sheep, six hundred stags, one thousand pigs, ten
      thousand chickens and ten thousand roosters were sacrificed and alms were
      distributed to the poor.Haghia Sophia is the most outstanding example of a
      domed basilica. The central space has an area of seven thousand square
      metres, and is flanked by two aisles, each divided from the nave by four
      verd antique columns. These eight columns were brought from Ephesus, while
      the eight porphyry columns beneath the semidomes were brought from Egypt.

      Altogether the building contains 107 columns, whose capitals are among the
      finest examples of Byzantine stone carving. These capitals bear the
      monograms of the Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora.The dome rises to
      56.6 metres at its apex, and has a diameter of 32.37 metres.

      The original dome collapsed in an earthquake just 22 years after the
      church was completed, and was rebuilt in 562 by Isidorus the Younger,
      nephew of Isidorus of Miletus. Isidorus the Younger raised the height of
      the dome by 2.65 metres to lessen its outward thrust. During the Latin
      occupation of Istanbul by the Fourth Crusaders between 1203 and 1261, the
      church was used for Roman Catholic rites.

      Emperor Alexius IV was forced to hand over many of the sacred objects
      belonging to the church in repayment for debts to the Latins, and these
      are now in Venice.he mosaics of Haghia Sophia are exquisite works of art.
      In the semidome of the apse is a large mosaic depicting the Mother of God
      with the Infant Christ, which makes abundant use of gold and silver.

      The dress of Mary is worked in dark blue glass mosaic, and she sits on a
      magnificent bejewelled throne reminiscent of an imperial throne. The faces
      of mother and infant are entrancingly beautiful.

      Another mosaic not to be missed is that above the Imperial Gate showing
      Leo VI (886-912) bowing before Christ and asking his sins to be forgiven.
      A mosaic on the side door of the inner narthex depicts two emperors with
      Mary and the Infant Christ. One of the emperors is Constantine I, shown
      presenting Mary and Christ with a model of Constantinople, which was named
      after him, and the other is Justinian I, who is presenting a model of the
      church that he founded. In the south gallery is the Deisis mosaic and two
      others depicting Constantine IX Monomachos and the Empress Zoe (11th
      century) and John Comnenus II with his wife Eirene and son Alexius (12th
      century) respectively. In the north gallery is the mosaic depicting
      Emperor Alexander (10th century).

      Four minarets were added to the outside of the building at various times
      after its conversion into a mosque. The huge buttresses against the
      exterior walls were built in the 16th century by the Ottoman architect
      Mimar Sinan to support the building, and have enabled it to survive to the
      present day.

      Additions within the church are the mihrap or prayer niche inside the
      apse, the bronze lamps to either side of the niche which were brought here
      from Buda, and the pulpit and imperial and muezz'sal galleries of carved
      marble. The library beyond the south aisle was built by Mahmud I in 1739.

      All the additions were designed with the character of the existing
      building in mind, the use of marble for the Ottoman additions reflecting
      the extensive use of this material in the Byzantine building.

      The inscriptions in the dome and the large calligraphic panels bearing the
      names of God, Muhammed and the four caliphs are the work of the celebrated
      19th century calligrapher, Kazasker Mustafa Izzet Efendi.
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