What we do not know about the Hagia Sophia Mosque

What we do not know about the Hagia Sophia mosque
What we do not know about the Hagia Sophia mosque

Hagia Sophia is a museum, historical basilica and mosque in Istanbul. It was a basilica planned patriarchal cathedral built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinianus between the years 532-537 in the old city center of Istanbul and was converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1453 after Istanbul was taken by the Ottomans. It has been serving as a museum since 1935. Hagia Sophia is a domed basilica type that combines the basilica plan and the central plan in terms of architects and is considered as an important turning point in the history of architecture with its dome transition and bearing system features.

"Aya" named Hagia Sophia sözcüThe most "holy, saint", "sofia" sözcüMost of them are not anybody's name but sophos, which means "wisdom" in Ancient Greek. sözcüIt comes from meal. Therefore, the name "aya sofya" means "holy wisdom" or "divine wisdom" and is considered one of the three attributes of God in the Orthodoxy sect. It is stated that around 6 workers worked in the construction of Hagia Sophia, which was directed by famous scientists of the 10.000th century, physicist Isidoros of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius from Tralles, and that Justinian I spent a great fortune for this work. A characteristic of this very old building is that some of the columns, doors and stones used in its construction were brought from the buildings and temples older than the building.

In the Byzantine period, Hagia Sophia had a great wealth of “sacred relics”. One of these relics is the 15-meter-high silver iconostasist. Hagia Sophia, the center of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Orthodox Church for a thousand years, was founded in 1054 by Patriarch I. Mikhail Kirularios's Pope IX. It has witnessed the excommunication by Leo, and this is generally the beginning of the separation of Schisma, that is, the separation of Eastern and Western churches.

After the church was converted into a mosque in 1453, those with human figures from their mosaics were not destroyed (left unchanged if they did not) with the tolerance shown by the Ottoman sultan Fatih Sultan Mehmet, and the mosaics that remained under plaster for centuries were able to get rid of natural and artificial destruction. While the mosque was converted into a museum, some of the plasters were removed and the mosaics were brought to light. The Hagia Sophia building seen today is also known as the “Third Hagia Sophia” because it is actually the third building built in the same place. The first two churches were destroyed during the riots. The central dome of Hagia Sophia, the largest dome of its era, collapsed many times during the Byzantine period, and has never collapsed since Mimar Sinan added retaining walls to the building.

Distinctive Features of Hagia Sophia


Standing for 15 centuries, this building is among the masterpieces of the art history and architecture world and has become a symbol of Byzantine architecture with its large dome. Hagia Sophia is distinguished compared to other cathedrals with the following features:

  • It is the oldest cathedral in the world. 
  • For nearly a thousand years since its construction (until the construction of Seville Cathedral in Spain in 1520), it has been the world's largest cathedral. Today, it ranks fourth in terms of surface measurement. 
  • It is the fastest (in 5 years) cathedral in the world. 
  • It is one of the longest (15 century) places of worship in the world.
  • Its dome is considered to be the fourth largest in diameter among the "old cathedral" domes. 

History of Hagia Sophia

Distinguishing Features of Hagia Sophia

First Hagia Sophia
The first Hagia Sophia construction was initiated by the Roman emperor Constantine (the first emperor of Byzantium I Constantinus), the Roman emperor who declared Christianity the official religion of the empire. The son of Constantine the Great II, who was on the throne between 337 and 361. It was completed by Constantius and the opening of the Hagia Sophia church was held on 15 February 360 by Constantius II. It is learned from the records of Socrates Scholasticus that the first Hagia Sophia, decorated with silver curtains, was built on the Temple of Artemis.

The name of the first Hagia Sophia Church, whose name means “Great Church”, was Magna Ecclesia in Latin and Megálē Ekklēsíā in Greek. There is no ruin surviving from this building, which is stated to have been built on an old temple.

This First Hagia Sophia was built close to the imperial palace (near the new toilets, close to new toilets, in the northern part of today's museum area), near the time of the Hagia Irene Church, which served as a cathedral until the building was completed. Both churches operated as two main churches of the Eastern Roman Empire.

The first Hagia Sophia is a columnar basilica in traditional Latin architecture style, the roof of which was wooden and an atrium in front of it. Even this first Hagia Sophia was an extraordinary structure. On the 20th of June 404, during the rebellions after the Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Ioannis Hrisostomos, was exiled due to the clash with Emperor Arcadius' wife Empress Aelia Eudoksia, this first church was heavily destroyed by burning.

Second Hagia Sophia
After the first church was burned down during the riots, the emperor II. Theodosius ordered the construction of a second church in the place of today's Hagia Sophia, and the opening of the Second Hagia Sophia took place on October 10, 415 at his time. This Second Hagia Sophia, built by architect Rufinos, also had a basilica plan, wooden roof and five naves. It is believed that the Second Istanbul Council, the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, was hosting the First Istanbul Council together with Hagia Irene. This structure was burned down during the Nika uprising on January 13-14, 532.

In 1935 in the western courtyard of the building (today's entrance), many finds belonging to this Second Hagia Sophia were found during the excavations carried out by the German Archeological Institute AM Schneider. These finds, which can be seen in the garden next to the main entrance of the Hagia Sophia today, are the portico ruins, columns, capitals, some of which are marble blocks with reliefs. It was determined that these were the pieces of a triangular pediment that adorned the facade of the building. The lamb reliefs in a block adorning the facade of the building were made to represent 12 apostles. In addition, the excavations revealed that the ground of the Second Hagia Sophia was two meters lower than the ground of the Third Hagia Sophia. Although the length of the second Hagia Sophia is not known, its width is thought to be 60 m. (Today, the ground next to the main entrance of the Third Hagia Sophia, where the stairs of the facade stair of the Second Hagia Sophia rest, can be seen thanks to the excavations. Excavations have not been continued as they may cause collapse in the current building.)

Third Hagia Sophia
A few days after the destruction of the second Hagia Sophia on February 23, 532, Emperor Justinianus decided to build a completely different, larger and more magnificent church than the emperors built before him. Justinianus commissioned the physicist Miletus Isidoros and the mathematician Tralles Anthemius as architects to do this work. According to one legend, Justinianus does not like any of the drafts prepared for his church. One night, Isidoros fell asleep trying to draft. When he wakes up in the morning, he finds a plan of Hagia Sophia in front of him. Justinianus finds this plan perfect and orders Hagia Sophia to be built accordingly. According to another legend, Isodoros dreamed this plan and drew the plan the way he dreamed. (Since Anthemius died in the first year of construction, Isidoros continued the job). The building is depicted in the work of Justinian, by Byzantine historian Prokopius.

Instead of producing the materials to be used in construction, it was aimed to make use of the carved ready materials in the buildings and temples in the imperial territory. This method can be considered as one of the factors that ensures the construction time of Hagia Sophia to be very short. Thus, the columns brought from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the Temple of the Sun (Heliopolis) in Egypt, the Baalbek Temple in Lebanon and many other temples were used in the construction of the building. An interesting issue is how these columns can be moved with sixth century facilities. Red porphyry Egypt, green porphyry Greece, white marble Marmara Island, yellow stone Syria and black stone are of Istanbul origin. In addition, stones from various regions of Anatolia were used. It is stated that more than ten thousand people work in the construction. At the end of the construction, Hagia Sophia Church has taken its present form.

This new church, which shows a creative understanding in architecture, was immediately accepted as one of the masterpieces of architecture. It is possible that the architect used the theories of Heron of Alexandria to build a huge dome that could provide such a large open space.

The construction work, which started on 23 December 532, was completed on 27 December 537. Emperor Justinianus and patriarch Eutychius opened the church with a great ceremony. Since Hagia Sophia was bigger than the Temple of Solomon, which was considered the largest building up to that time, Emperor Justinianus said in his opening speech to the public, “O Solomon! "I beat you." The construction of the first mosaics of the church was on the throne between 565 and 578. It was completed in the Justin period. The light plays created by the lights leaking from the dome windows in the mosaics on the walls combined with the ingenious architecture, creating a fascinating atmosphere for the audience. Hagia Sophia had such a fascinating and profound effect on the foreigners coming to Istanbul that those who lived in the Byzantine period called Hagia Sophia “the only one in the world”.

Post-Production of Hagia Sophia

Is the name of Hagia Sophia changing? Will it change as a mosque instead of Muze?


But shortly after its construction, cracks appeared in the main dome and the eastern half dome in 553 Gölcük and 557 Istanbul earthquakes. In the earthquake of May 7, 558, the main dome completely collapsed and the first ambon, siborium and altar were crushed and destroyed. The emperor immediately initiated the restoration work and led the younger İsidorus, the nephew of Isidoros from Miletus, to this work. Light material was used in the construction of the dome to prevent it from collapsing again this time by taking lessons from the earthquake and the dome was made 6,25 m higher than before. The restoration work was completed in 562.

Hagia Sophia, the center of the Orthodoxism of Constantinople for centuries, also hosted imperial ceremonies such as the coronation ceremonies of Byzantium. Emperor VII. In his book "The Book of Ceremonies", Konstantinos describes the ceremonies organized by the emperor and the patriarch in Hagia Sophia in all details. Hagia Sophia has also been a shelter for sinners.

Among the destructions that Hagia Sophia suffered later were 859 fires, 869 earthquakes that caused a half dome to fall, and 989 earthquakes that caused damage to the main dome. Emperor II after the 989 earthquake. Basil had the dome repaired by the Armenian architect Trdat, who had built the great churches in Agine and Ani. Trdat restored part of the dome and the western arch, and the church was re-opened to the public in 6 after 994 years of repair work.

The Latin Invasion Period of Hagia Sophia

The Catholic Latin invasion of Istanbul

During the Fourth Crusade, the Crusaders, under the command of Enrico Dandolo, the Venetian Republic of Venice, seized Istanbul and looted Hagia Sophia. This event is learned in detail from the pen of Byzantine historian Nikitas Honiatis. Many holy relics such as a piece of the tombstone of Jesus, the shrine where Jesus was hugged, the milk of Mary and the bones of the saints, and valuable items made of gold and silver were stolen from the church, and even the gold on the doors was removed and taken to the western churches. In this period, known as the Latin Invasion (1204-1261), Hagia Sophia was transformed into a cathedral attached to the Roman Catholic Church. On May 16, 1204, Latin Emperor I. Baudouin wore the imperial crown in Hagia Sophia.

The tombstone placed in the name of Enrico Dandolo is in the upper gallery of Hagia Sophia. During the restoration of 1847-1849 by Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati, it was revealed that the tomb was not a true tomb, but was placed as a symbolic plaque in memory of Enrico Dandolo.

The Last Byzantine Period of Hagia Sophia

hagia sophia

When Hagia Sophia came under the control of the Byzantines in 1261, it was in a state of devastation, ruin and destruction. Emperor II in 1317. Andronikos financed his financing from the legacy of his deceased wife, Irini, and added 4 retaining walls to the north and east parts of the building. New cracks appeared in the dome in the earthquake of 1344, and on 19 May 1346 various parts of the building collapsed. After this event, the church remained closed until the start of the restoration work of architects Astras and Peralta in 1354.

The Ottoman-Mosque Period of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Hagia Sophia Church was immediately converted into a mosque as a symbol of the conquest. At that time Hagia Sophia was in a dilapidated state. This is described by Western notables such as the noble of the Cordoba, Pero Tafur and Florentine Cristoforo Buondelmonti. Fatih Sultan Mehmet, who attaches special importance to Hagia Sophia, ordered the church to be cleaned immediately and turned into a mosque, but did not change its name. Its first minaret was built in its period. Although the Ottomans preferred to use stones in such structures, this minaret was made of bricks in order to quickly build the minaret. One of the minarets is Sultan II. It was added by Bayezid. In the 16th century, Suleiman the Magnificent brought two giant oil lamps to Hagia Sophia from a church in Hungary, which he conquered, and today these oil lamps are located on both sides of the altar.

II. When Selim showed signs of fatigue or weakness during the period of 1566–1574, the building was reinforced with external retaining structures (buttress) added by the Ottoman chief architect Mimar Sinan, one of the world's first earthquake engineers. Today, some of the 24 buttresses on the four sides of the building belong to the Ottoman period and some to the Eastern Roman Empire period. Along with these retaining structures, Sinan also reinforced the dome by feeding the gaps between the piers carrying the dome and the side walls with arches, and two wide minarets (west part), the doner spire and the II. He added Selim's tomb (to the southeast section) (1577). III. Murat's and III. Mehmed's tombs were added in the 1600s.

Other buildings that were added to the Hagia Sophia during the Ottoman period include marble minbars, gallery opening to the sultan's loft, muezzin mahfili (mevlit balcony), preaching chair. III. Murad was found in Bergama and placed two cubes made of “gooseberry” from the Hellenistic period (IV century BC) in the main nave (main hall) of Hagia Sophia. Mahmud I ordered the restoration of the building in 1739, and he added a library and a madrasa, an imaret house and a fountain to the building (garden). Thus, the Hagia Sophia building turned into a complex with the structures around it. In this period, a new sultan gallery and a new altar were built.

One of the most famous restorations of Hagia Sophia during the Ottoman period was under the command of sultan Abdülmecit, under the supervision of Gaspare Fossati and his brother Giuseppe Fossati, between 1847 and 1849. The Fossati brothers strengthened the dome, vault and pillars, and reworked the building's interior and exterior decoration. Some of the gallery mosaics on the upper floor were cleaned, the ones that were destroyed were covered with plaster and the mosaic motifs on the bottom were painted on this plaster. [Note 8] The oil lamp chandeliers providing the lighting system were renewed. Round giant paintings of Kazasker Mustafa İzzed Efendi (1801–1877), in which important names were written in calligraphy, were renewed and hung in columns. A new madrasa and temporary quarters were built outside Hagia Sophia. Minarets were brought in the same paint. When this restoration work was completed, the Hagia Sophia was reopened to the public with a ceremony held on 13 July 1849. Among the other buildings of the Hagia Sophia complex during the Ottoman period, the school of residence, the tomb of princes, the fountain, the sultan Mustafa and the tomb of Sultan İbrahim (formerly baptistery) and the treasury office.

Museum Period of Hagia Sophia


Between 1930 and 1935, a series of works were carried out with the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Hagia Sophia, which was closed to the public due to restoration works. These include various restorations, turning the dome with an iron belt, and uncovering and cleaning the mosaics. Hagia Sophia During the restoration, the new Turkey in line with the principle of secularism of the Republic, the purpose of construction of the church again converted if put forward ideas on how to be the lack of demand due to the very small number of Christians living in the area, possible provocations and architecture so much that can be made against an imposing church in the region Considering its historical importance, it was converted into a museum with the decision of the Council of Ministers dated 24 November 1934 and numbered 7/1589. Atatürk opened the museum on February 1, 1935, and visited the museum on February 6, 1935. Centuries later, with the removal of the carpets on the marble floor, the magnificent mosaics were brought to light again with the floor covering and the plaster covering the mosaics with human figures.

Systematic examination, restoration and cleaning of Hagia Sophia was provided by the Byzantine Institute of America in the USA in 1931 and the Dumbarton Oaks Field Committee's initiative in the 1940s. Archaeological studies carried out in this context were carried out by KJ Conant, W. Emerson, RL Van Nice, PA Underwood, T. Whittemore, E. Hawkins, RJ Mainstone and C. Mango and successful results were obtained regarding the history, structure and decoration of Hagia Sophia. Some of the other names who worked in Hagia Sophia are AM Schneider, F. Dirimtekin and Prof. It is A. Çakmak. While the Byzantine Institute team was engaged in mosaic search and cleaning, a team under the management of R. Van Nice embarked on the building's work to extract the surveys by measuring stone and stone. Studies are still carried out by scientists from various nations.

In the Kadir Night program held at the Hagia Sophia Museum in July 2016, the morning prayer adha was read after 85 years. The reaction came from Greece when TRT Diyanet TV brought the sahur program called “Bereket Vakti Ayasofya” to the screens during the month of Ramadan. In October 2016, for the first time after many years, an imam was appointed to the Hünkar Pavilion, which is open to worship, by the Presidency of Religious Affairs. As of 2016, it was started to perform time prayers in the Hünkar Pavilion section and to read five adhan prayers with the Blue Mosque from their minarets.

Architecture of Hagia Sophia

The architecture of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is a domed basilica type building that combines the basilica plan and the central plan in terms of architecture and is considered as an important turning point in the history of architecture with its dome transition and bearing system features.

Hagia Sophia is first and foremost important with its size and architectural structure. In the world of the period it was built, no basilica planned building could be covered with a dome in the size of the dome of Hagia Sophia and it did not have such a large interior. Although the dome of Hagia Sophia is smaller than the dome of the Pantheon in Rome, the complex and sophisticated system consisting of half domes, arches and vaults applied in Hagia Sophia makes the dome more impressive by enabling it to cover a much larger space. Compared to the domes of previous structures placed on the walls of the body as a carrier, such a large dome, which was placed on only four piers, is considered a revolution both in technical and aesthetic aspects in the history of architecture.

The main (central) dome that covers half the middle nave has been expanded so as to create a very large rectangular interior with half domes added to its east and west, which is perceived as a dome dominating the entire interior, which seems to be hanging from the sky.

The system was completed by switching from the half domes covering the eastern and western openings to the smaller half-domed exedra. The hierarchy of these domes, starting with small domes and completed with the main dome crown, is an architectural system that is not seen in ancient times. The basilica plan of the building is incompletely “hidden”.

During the construction, mortar rather than brick was used on the walls, and when the dome was placed on the structure, the weight of the dome led to the outer bending of the walls formed with mortar, the bottom of which was moist. During the reconstruction of the main dome made after the 558 earthquake, the young Isidorus re-erected the walls before they could carry the dome. Despite all these delicate works, the weight of the dome remained a problem for centuries, and the weight pressure of the dome forced the building to open out from all four corners, like opening a flower. This problem was solved by adding retaining elements to the building from the outside.

In the Ottoman period, architects would either add a small vertical column that could be rotated by hand during construction, or place glass between two 20-30 centimeter fixed points on the wall. It would have been understood that when the column could no longer be rotated or when the glass in question was cracked, the building had slipped to a certain degree. Traces of the second method can still be seen on the upper floor walls of Hagia Sophia. The column returned is in the harem section of Topkapı Palace.

The interior surfaces are covered with multicolored marble, red or purple porphyry and gold-used mosaics on the brick. This is a method that also makes large patches lighter and camouflaged. During the restoration work in the 19th century, the building was painted yellow and red by Fossati from the outside. Although Hagia Sophia is a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, it is a structure in which pagan, Orthodox, Catholic and Islamic influences are synthesized.

Mosaics of Hagia Sophia

Mosaics of Hagia Sophia

In addition to gold, stone pieces such as silver, colored glass, terracotta and colored marble were used in the construction of the Hagia Sophia mosaics where tons of gold were used. III in 726. Upon Leo's order to destroy all the icons, all the icons and sculptures were removed from Hagia Sophia. Therefore, all of the mosaics seen in Hagia Sophia, including face depictions, are made after the iconoclasm period. However, few of the mosaics that do not contain a face depiction in Hagia Sophia are the first mosaics made in the 6th century.

After the church was converted into a mosque in 1453, some of the people with human figures were covered with a thin plaster and the mosaics that had been plastered for centuries were able to get rid of natural and artificial damage. It is understood from the reports of the 17th century travelers who visited Istanbul that some of the ones that did not contain human figures and those that contain them were left uncoated in the first centuries following the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The complete closure of the Hagia Sophia mosaics took place in 842 or towards the end of the 18th century. Baron De Tott, who came to Istanbul in 1755, stated that all the mosaics were now under whitewash.

Upon the request of Sultan Abdülmecid, Fossati brothers, who carried out various restoration works in Hagia Sophia between 1847 and 1849 and obtained the permission to document the mosaics that can be discovered during the restoration, closed the mosaics after they removed the plaster of the mosaics into their documents. These documents are lost today. In contrast, architect W. Salzenberg, who was sent for repair by the German government in those years, also drew and published the patterns of some mosaics.

Most of the plaster-covered mosaics were opened and cleaned by a team of the Byzantine Institute of America in the 1930s. The opening of the mosaics of Hagia Sophia was first carried out in 1932 by Thomas Whittemore, the head of the Byzantine Institute of America, and the mosaic that was unearthed was the mosaic on the “emperor gate”.

It was understood that some of the plaster on the half-dome in the east had fallen a while ago and there were mosaics under the plaster covering this half-dome.

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