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The Hagia Sophia, one of the historic architectural wonders that still stands today, has an important place in the art world with its architecture, height, size and functionality.
The first church was built by the emperor (337-361) Konstantios in 360. The first church was covered with a wooden roof and expanded vertically (basilica) yet was burned after public uprising that took place in 404, as result of disagreements between Emperor Arkadios’ (395-408) wife Empress Eudoksia and patriarch of Istanbul Ioannes Chrysostom, who was exiled. Mosaic portrait of the patriarch still be seen on the wall I tymphanon located in the northern part of the church. No remains have been recovered from the first church; however, the bricks which are in storage brand museum ‘Megale Ekklesia’ are predicted to belong to the first construction.
The second church was rebuilt by Emperor Theodosius II (408-450) in 415. This basilica structure is known to contain five naves and a monumental entrance; is also covered by a wooden roof.
The church was demolished on 13 January 532, after public disturbances (Nika riots) that took place during the fifth year of Emperor Justinian ‘reign (527-565), when the Blues representing aristocrats and greens representing the trader and traders in society, working against the Empire.
The remains found during excavations directed by A. M Scheinder the Institute of Archaeology of Istanbul German, two meters below ground level, include steps belonging to the Propylon (monumental gate), bases of columns and pieces with reliefs of lamb representing the 12 apostles. In addition, other architectural pieces belonging to the monumental entrance can be seen in the west garden.
The current structure was built by Isidoros (Milet) and Anthemius (Tralles), who were renowned architects of his time, (527-565) orders of Emperor Justinian. Information historian Prokopios states that construction began on February 23 532, was completed in a short period of five years, and the church was opened for worship with a ceremony on 27 December 537. Resources show that in the day opening of the Hagia Sophia, emperor Justinian entered the temple and said: “My Lord, thank you for giving me the opportunity to create a place of worship,” and followed with the words “Soliman, you won,” referring to the temple of Suleiman in Jerusalem.
The third building of Hagia Sophia combines the three traditional basilica plan with the central dome plan design. The structure has three Nephi, one APSI, and two narthex, internal and external. The length of the apse exterior narthex is 100 m, and the width is 69.5 m. The height of the dome from the ground level is 55.60 m and 31.87 m radius is north to south and 30.86 on the east-west direction.
Emperor Justinian ordered all provinces under his rule to send the best architectural pieces to be used in the construction so that the Hagia Sophia could be bigger and bigger. The columns and marbles used in the structure are taken from ancient cities around Anatolia and Syria, as Aspendo Ephessus, Baalbeek and Tarsa.
The white marbles used in the structure came from the island of Marmara, the green porphyry Egriboz island, marble Afyon pink and yellow in North Africa. Decorative coatings settled interior walls dividing individual blocks into two marble and combining them to create symmetric shapes.
Moreover, the structure includes columns brought from the Temple of Artemis at Ephessus for use on ships and 8 columns brought from Egypt that support the vaults. The structure comprises a total of 104 columns, 40 on the bottom and 64 in the upper gallery.
All the walls of Hagia Sophia, except those listed in marble are decorated with mosaics of great beauty. Gold, silver, glass, tile and colored stones have been used to make mosaics. The mosaics of plant and geometric origin are the sixth century, while the figurative mosaics dating from the iconoclastic period.
During the Roman period the east, the Hagia Sophia was the Empire Church and as a result, was the place where emperors were crowned. The area is to the right of the ships, where the ground is covered with colored stones creating an interlocking circle (Omphalion) design, is the section in which they were crowned Roman emperors of the East.
Istanbul was occupied by Latinos between 1204 and 1261, during Holy Crusades, when both the city and the church were damaged. The Hagia Sophia was known to be in poor condition in 1261, when Eastern Rome took over the city again.
After conquering Fatih Sultan (1451-1481) Mehmed in 1453, Hagia Sophia was renovated into a mosque. The structure was fortified and well protected after this period, and remained as a mosque. Additional support pillars were installed during the Eastern Roman and Ottoman periods as a result of the damage to the structure due to earthquakes in the region. The minarets designed and implemented by Mimar Sinan have also served this purpose.
A madrasa was built north or Hagia Sophia during the reign of Sultan Mehmed Fatih. This construction was abolished in the 17th century .. Durante (1839-1861) reign of Sultan Abdülmecid, renovations were carried out by Fossati and a madrassa was rebuilt in the same place. The remains were discovered during excavations in 1982.
During the Ottoman period 16th and 17th century, mihrabs, minibar, maksoorahs, have added a sermon support and mahfili muezzin (a special raised platform in a mosque opposite the minbar where a muezzin kneels and chants in response to prayers the imam) to the structure.
Bronze lamps on two sides of the mihrab were given as gifts to the mosque by Kanuni Sultan Suleyman (1520-1566) after his return from Budin.
The two cubes of marble dating from the Hellenistic period (3-4 BC) on both sides of the main entrance were specially brought from Bergama and given by Sultan Murad III (1574-1595) as gifts.
During the period of Sultan Abdülmecid between 1847 and 1849, an extensive renovation in the Hagia Sophia was made by Swiss brothers Fossati, where retired Hunkar mahfili (a separate compartment where emperors prayed) located in a niche in the northern section and another one to the left of the mihrab was built.
The 8- 7.5 m in diameter calligraphy panels were written by calligrapher Mustafa İzzet Efendi Kadıasker placed in the main walls of the structure. The panels that read “Allah, Hz. Muhammed Hz. Ebubekir, Hz. Ömer, Hz. Osman, Hz. Ali, Hz. Hasan looks Hz. Hüseyin” are known to be the largest panels of calligraphy in the Islamic world .
The Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and one has been running since February 1, 1935 to welcome local and foreign visitors.