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thehandsom 04 Apr 2009

Solomon, I have surpassed you!!!

Hagia Sophia


"Solomon, I have surpassed you".

 It was what the emperor Justinian  shouted out with great excitement  on 27 December, 537 AD when he opened the most magnificent church of the Christianity at the time. 

 The church was Hagia Sophia..(Ayasofya in Turkish )

 In fact this is the third church built on the same location.The first church was built between 325-360 AD. (It was known as the ´Megalo Ekklesia´ and it was the largest church in Constantinople). The name Hagia Sophia (Sacred wisdom) was adopted in the fifth century.. Megalo Ekklesia  was burnt down during an insurrection in the 404 AD.and the second one was being burnt down  too on 13 January, 532 A.D during the Nika insurrection.

 Although I am sure some of you have seen it already and considering our eyes got used to  monumental buildings today, Hagia Sophia is a gigantic building and It might make you bewildered with its size (Even you may end up with a kind of religious feeling that you want to ´submit to god´:P )

 It was the biggest building, the biggest church of the entire Christianity. It kept this position until (in chronological order)  St Paul in London was built (then St Peter in Rome and Douma in  Milan).

Almost a 1.000 years!!  (well no surprise really..Because during the same period, Istanbul was the most glorious city in the world and the center of civilisation. Other big cities had to wait for another 1.000 years to catch up!!)


 Justinian appointed two scientist for the this task of building the biggest church on earth and they were  Anthemios of Tralles a mathematician and Izidorus of Miletus a genius geometry person. But a bit later Anthemios died and then The dome of the church was demolished after an earthquake.


 Lets look at the dimensions of it: it is 7570 sq mt, its length is more than 100 m and the most importantly, the diameter of its dome which is 31-32 mts (not a real circle because of the repairs)

 But the real originality or ingenuity of it was that adding two more half domes to the both sides of the main dome and making the central area larger. That is the reason why you feel the overwhelming enormity of it when you stand in the middle.

 Using the half domes in order to creat a bigger space was used by the Ottoman architecs  later on. This is why it can be said "Hagia Sophia affected Ottoman architecture a lot"



 Its pillars were brought to Istanbul from all over the world including artemis tample of Efes, Baalkbek of Labenon..


 When Turks captured Istanbul the first thing they did was to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque..(btw..this should be considered as a civilized gesture at the time, -considering reputation of demolishing, burning etc-) And they added 4 minarets (one by sultan Mehmet, second was by his son Sultan Beyazid and then two by great Ottomani architect Sinan). And this mosque was the most used mosque until the end of Ottoman empire..

 It was turned into a museum in 1935..(some muslims still insists that it should be a mosque, as well as some christians desire to see it as a church again..bizarrely!! )


 (ps..Actually, the effect of Hagia Sophia on Ottomani architecture was more than a normal effect. You might call it jealusy. Ottomans  wanted to build something bigger that Hagia Sophia but only Sinan came quite closer to that with its mosque Selimiye in Edirne-with the diameter of its dome 31,5 mtrs.) 

 But Turks really valued Hagia Sophia and that was the reason many tombs of the sultans, princes and princesses were burried into its garden..(Murat III, mehmetIII, selim II, Ibrahim the mad, Mustafa I etc) And even  a beautiful library (possibly the first ever ottomani library) was built by Mahmud I in 1739 in there.


 At some stage, its frescos and paintings were covered with paint because of the Islamic belief (but the paint  has apparently protected them!)

Some examples of them:





 Lets talk about some rumors and stories about this building..


 -According to the legend, when Turks entered Hagia Sophia, patriarch was praying and and he opened a door in the south part of the church and disappeared. They could not find the door..Some believe that he will come back and finish his pray when  a cross was put on top of the church again. 

 -When Sultan Mehmet II captured Istanbul, he hit the door with his hands and they never managed to close that door..

 -In a place inside, there is a carving resembling a hand..The story is that Sultan Mehmet hit that stone and that is his hand print..

 -In one pillar, there is small hole  (a moist hole :) )where you can put your finger in and some believe that it heals everything or your wish will be granted. (  Mitterand, Bush, Turgut Özal, Micotakis Yakovas, King Juan Carlos of Spain were some of the famous ones who fingered that pillar)

  (our late president Ozal..)

 -Three gigantic marble jars were found by a villager while working on his field in Pergamon and 2 of them were taken to the church by Murat III. (The third one is in Louvre museum apparently)  


 -The other story is about its finance. The money run out apparently during the construction and an angel brought the money..Its name Sacred wisdom was given by an angel too according to the legend..

 -Some Muslims believe that the mortar which was  used for the doom, had Mohammed´s saliva in it..(this sounds a bit bizarre considering the time difference and the difficulty of bringing his saliva all the way from Arabia without evaporating :) )

 -The other story was about Theodora (wife of Justinian). She had a fear of being eaten by snakes when she died, she asked to be burried into a solid coffin in the church but two snakes managed to get into tha coffin and ate her body..

 (btw Thedora was a quite famous charachter of her time too. in wiki it says- On the field of pleasure she was never defeated. Often she would go picnicking with ten young men or more, in the flower of their strength and virility, and dallied with them all, the whole night through. When they wearied of the sport, she would approach their servants, perhaps thirty in number, and fight a duel with each of these; and even thus found no allayment of her craving.   She was a prostitute before becoming empress.. You can check her story in wiki)

Some pictures of the church:









 I am sure, if you have already visited this magnificent place, you will want to see it again when you go to Istanbul..

If you have not, ermm..you must :)


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