An 1880 photo showing Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. From the Pierre de Gigord Collection of Photographs. Photographer unknown.

Hagia Sophia in 1880
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul in 1880. From the Pierre de Gigord Collection of Photographs. Photographer unknown. Image source:

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is a former Christian patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi in Turkish). From the date of its construction in 537, it was used as a church for 916 years but, following the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed in 1453, it was converted into a mosque. Then it was converted into a museum in 1935. On July 24, 2020, it was converted into a mosque again.

This impressive building is an important place in the art world with its architecture, grandness, size, and functionality. It actually has been constructed three times in the same location. When it was first built, it was named Megale Ekklesia (Big Church); however, after the 5th century AD, it was referred to as the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom).

The current structure, the Church of Justinian I was completed on December 27, 537, only 5 years and 10 months after construction started on February 23 532. Justinian appointed two architects, mathematician Anthemius of Tralles and geometer and engineer Isidore of Miletus, to design the building.

The Hagia Sophia architects innovatively combined the longitudinal structure of a traditional Roman basilica and the central plan of a drum-supported dome, in order to withstand the high magnitude earthquakes of the Marmara Region.

However, in May 558 AD, little more than 20 years after the Church’s dedication, following the earthquakes of August 553 and December 557, parts of the central dome and its supporting structure system collapsed.” The Hagia Sophia was repeatedly cracked by earthquakes and was quickly repaired.

Isidore of Miletus’ nephew, Isidore the Younger, introduced the new dome design that can be viewed in the current building in present-day Istanbul, Turkey.

After a great earthquake in 989 ruined the dome of Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine officials summoned Trdat the Architect to Byzantium to organize repairs. The restored dome was completed by 994.

The church was the place in which Byzantine emperors were crowned, and it was also the biggest operational cathedral in the city throughout the Byzantine period.


Özgür Nevres

Published by Özgür Nevres

I am a software developer, a former road racing cyclist, and a science enthusiast. Also an animal lover! I write about the city of Istanbul on this website. I live in Istanbul since 1992.

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