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Haghia Sophia

Ayasofya Square, Istanbul

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Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
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Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
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Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
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Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
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Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
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Location

Address

Ayasofya Square, Istanbul, Turkey
Ayasofya Meydanı, İstanbul, Istanbul, Türkiye

Bordering Streets

Kabasakal Caddesi
Yerebatan Caddesi
Caferiye Sokak
Soğuk Çeşme Sokak

Neighborhood

Sultanahmet
Sultanahmet

Fast Facts

Also Known As

Megale Ekklesia, The Great Church,The Church of Divine Wisdom

Built

537

Being built in the turbulent crossroad that is Istanbul (then Constantinople), the Aya Sofya has seen good and bad times. As noted in the brief chronology above, there have been three basilicas built on this site, all bearing the Haghia Sophia name. Two were destroyed by fire. The one that stands now is thanks to Emperor Justin who ordered all of the provinces of his empire to send their best artisans and artifacts to Constantinople to build this great church. It is because of that call that the building contains artifacts from as far away as Greece and Egypt as integral parts of its design

Though it has been thus far safe from fire, the Haghia Sophia has been battered by earthquakes. The most serious damage happened just two weeks after it was dedicated. The eastern part of the great dome collapsed, and much of the rest of that side of the building was heavily damaged. By then, the principal architects had both died, so it was left to Isidorus the Younger, nephew of Isidorus of Miletus, to reconstruct what his uncle had built. Even though the building was extensively reinforced, some refused to enter after the quake, fearing for their lives. Others believed that since the entire church didn't collapse, it was proof that God was watching over them.

The Haghia Sophia served as a Greek Orthodox cathedral until 1204 when it became Roman Catholic under the Venetian empire. In 1261, it was once again returned to the control of the Greek Orthodox Church, but not for long. In 1453, when the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul, Sultan Mehmed II turned the basilica into a mosque, added minarets, and renamed it the Aya Sofya Cami'i.

Even though it wasn't one of their own creations, we can thank the Ottoman sultans for keeping the structure in good repair. It is said they considered it one of the most beautiful mosques in their empire, and felt it was a source of great pride. That's not to say that there weren't some modifications. Part of the conversion from Christianity to Islam involved plastering over or painting away many of the Byzantine Christian icons, symbols, and other decorations. These were rediscovered during a renovation in the 1840's. The architects restored the symbols to their original splendor, then covered them up for safe keeping. They were discovered once again in the 20th century, and in 1964 made their first public appearance in more than five centuries.

For almost five hundred years people worshiped under its domes, vaults, and arches. Then in 1932 it was closed and by 1934 had become a museum. Today visitors are most taken by its dome. At one-hundred feet across it is an incredible sight. But this spectacle is made even more grand by the presence of 40 huge windows around it. The effect isn't so much of a dome, but a cupola of incredible proportions. So incredible are the proportions of this church that it was the largest in the world for nearly one thousand years until Saint Peter's Basilica was built.

Raw Data

Construction End

537

Renovated

by Gaspare and Guiseppe Fossati

Noteworthy Facts

• The building has the largest dome of the ancient world. It is 100 feet in diameter and 180 feet high.
• More than four acres of gold leaf line the inside of the building.
• The building's main chamber is 250 feet long and 230 feet wide.
• The buttresses surrounding the building were added after the 537 earthquake.
• The remains of the Theodosian Church are visible near the museum entrance. They were discovered by a German archeologist in 1935.
• According to legend, Saint Gregory the Miracle Worker's powers to heal live on in one of the building's pillars. It had to be encased in brass to protect it from the faithful, who have made a hole in the metal and worn a hole into the stone.

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Attributes

• museum - See more: (local) (region) (global)
• holy place - See more: (local) (region) (global)

People and Companies

Architect

Anthemius of Tralles
Isidorus of Miletus

Timeline

• 360: The original building was completed.
• 404: The building was destroyed by fire during riots.
• 415: The second building, known as the Theodosian Church, was completed.
• 532: The second church was destroyed during the Nika Revolt.
• 537: The third building, also known as the Justinian Church, was built.

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