Hagia Sophia Church: Transformation from Church to Museum to Mosque
The grand Hagia Sophia is one of the most culturally significant monuments in the city of Istanbul. Recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO, the Hagia Sophia has lived through centuries, empires and disasters to tell the tale of time. This landmark was initially constructed as a church, to serve as a pivotal point of worship for the Christian world under the east Roman Empire. While it was subsequently converted to a mosque, a museum and now back to a mosque again, the Hagia Sophia Church has a rich backstory.
A Brief Look at Hagia Sophia Church
- The Hagia Sophia was first known as Magna Ecclesia (meaning Great Church) because of its significantly large dimensions
- It is over 14 centuries old, consecrated first in 360 C.E. by bishop Eudoxius of Antioch during the reign of Constantius II
- All parts of the great Byzantine Empire had a part to play in the building of the church. The green marble from Egypt, the yellow stone from Syria, and the black stone from the Bosporus region
- During the time of its construction, the Hagia Sophia was destroyed twice: first during the riots of C.E. 404, and then again during 532 C.E. during the Nika Uprising
- The columns from the Temple of Artemis were used to boost and embellish the interior of Hagia Sophia
- It took 10,000 workers just to complete the construction of the dome of the Hagia Sophia
A Close Look at Hagia Sophia Church
The Hagia Sophia Church is an important part of the mighty Byzantine’s history. It’s beauty led people to believe that the construction of Hagia Sophia Church required divine intervention. Here’s a closer look into its history and construction.
The original church at the current site of the Hagia Sophia was built beside the Great Palace of Constantinople. The Hagia Eirene Church served as the main cathedral while the Great Church was still under construction. A majority of the current structure of Hagia Sophia was built under emperor Justinian I after the church was destroyed in 532 C.E.
During the Latin rule in Constantinople in the 13th Century, the Hagia Sophia Church became a Roman Catholic Cathedral. After falling into disuse and suffering damages from earthquakes, the church was closed and repairs were ordered in 1354.
The Hagia Sophia Church was involved in an unaccepted union between the western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. The masses then avoided the church and believed that it was a haunt of demons. It was widely reported that the local residents saw the Holy Spirit leaving the Hagia Sophia Church days before Constantinople fell to the Ottoman siege in 1453.
Such was the satisfaction of Justinian I after the construction of the Great Church, it is said that he declared that he had outdone Solomon. Under architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, the vast interior was created with a complex structure. The nave is enclosed by a central dome, which is at a height of 55.6 m from the floor level and stands on an arcade of 40 arched windows. The repairs to its structure left the dome somewhat elliptical in shape.
Since its construction, the Hagia Sophia Church has suffered damages on multiple occasions due to earthquakes and negligence. One of the major renovation projects was led by emperor Basil II in the 10th Century, who restored the fallen dome of the church and added four large murals of cherubs, a new depiction of Christ on the vault, a burial cloth of Christ, and on the apse, a new depiction of the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus, amid the apostles, Peter and Paul.
Hagia Sophia Church Today
The Hagia Sophia Church was transformed into a mosque in 1453 under the Ottoman’s and then into a museum in 1935 under the Republic of Turkey. The Hagia Sophia remained a museum until 2020 as one of the most famous and iconic travel destinations in the world. Today, it has been re-designated a mosque in Istanbul.