St. Sophia Cathedral is one of the historical monuments that has survived almost unchanged today. Once upon a time, it was the largest temple in the Christian world, then a mosque. From the inside, you can feel the harmony of these two religions.
A brief history
Originally, this magnificent building was replaced by two other shrines, which were destroyed by large fires. Despite the conquests and internal changes, the structure that has survived to this day was built by Emperor Justinian for the third time.
Fragments from the basilica of Feodosia
More than 10,000 people took part in the construction, which resulted in the church being rebuilt in 5 years. According to legend, it was not only the inhabitants of the earth who helped build it. It is said that an angel appeared to the emperor Justinian, who had in his hand an example of a glorious temple.
In 1453, Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Constantinople, but he marveled at the beauty and scale of the temple and did not want to destroy it. But the Sultan ordered the cathedral to be turned into a mosque, and so new minarets named Hagia Sophia were added. For 5 centuries it served as the main city mosque where representatives of the Sultan’s Palace worshiped.
Surprisingly, in the future, Hagia Sophia served as a model for the construction of other mosques in Istanbul. You have definitely noticed the similarities between Solomon and the Blue Mosque.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Ataturk came to power and ordered the restoration of Christian mosaics and frescoes. In 1934, the mosques received the status of mosques and monuments of Byzantine architecture.
Praying in the mosque is currently banned.
Hagia Sophia is a rectangular basilica of three varieties of classical shape, with two corridors in the western part. The temple is 100 meters long, 69.5 meters wide, 55.6 meters high and 31 meters in diameter. The main materials used in the construction of the building were marble and light bricks made of clay and sand.
There is a courtyard in front of the temple and a fountain in the center. The museum itself has nine doors. Only one of them, located in the center, could enter the emperor.
But the true beauty of the building is reflected in the interior decoration. The basilica hall consists of two – the upper and lower gallery, made of Roman marble. The lower floor is decorated with 104 columns and the upper part with 64 columns. They point out that some of the pillars previously served the temple of Artemis.
The cathedral is almost decorated with various frescoes, mosaics, precious metal coverings, ivory and terracotta elements.
Byzantine mosaics and frescoes are well preserved because the Ottomans simply plastered them. The interior of the temple is also filled with an altar, a sultan’s lodge and a marble pulpit. The candles were replaced with chandeliers made of lamps.
Initially, Hagia Sophia was illuminated through 214 windows, but over time their number dropped to 181. The temple consists of 361 doors, most of which are decorated with unusual patterns and symbols. There are legends that the number of doors will change each time it is taken into account.
Underground corridors were found in the building itself. One of them led to Topkapi Palace.
Undoubtedly, Hagia Sophia is one of the most attractive places in Turkey today and should be visited at least once in a lifetime.