Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya
Hagia Sophia image courtsey: treakearth.com
Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya
‘The most beautiful building ever made’.
A phoenix among structures!
In Istanbul Turkey there stands the most beautiful building the ‘Aya Sofya’ with many old names by which it was known and many old roles it had made to play in the centuries that passed after its construction. It in its course has been burned down to ashes, crumbled down in earth quakes and got vandalized by rioters but each time it literally rose from its ashes to be the most beautiful human construction ever happened.
Against all odds.
Hagia Sopia image courtsey: nato.int
Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia – meaning Holy wisdom) was constructed in 360 AD by Emperor Constantius-2 (son of Constantine), it remained as the ‘Great Church’ (Megala Ekklassia) until 404 AD when it was burned down to ashes in riots when people took part in a tussle between the emperor Arcadius and the Arch Bishop John Chrisostom (who criticized the empress and was exiled for that). The fury of the mob did not even spare a trace of the original structure.
Aya Sofya image courtsey: es.tldp.org
In 405 AD Thodosius -2 rebuilt it in far larger dimensions; this too has another tragic end as in the ‘Nika Revolt’ in AD 532 this building along with half the city of
Justinian image courtsey: wikipedia.org
The next role of reconstruction was on the shoulders of Justinian who managed the whole work under his direct supervision, in this process Justinian brought eight Corinthian columns from
The mega church.
Hagia Sofya image courtsey: webstylus.net
In its prime time being the largest cathedral in the world it enjoyed the service of 80 priests, 150 Deacons, 60 Sub-Deacons, 160 readers, 25 Cantors and 75 door-keepers!
The earth quake.
In 989 AD the devastating earth quake had its death-dance all through the region and Hagia Sophia was not spared as its beautiful dome crumbled down along with many other damages. The Byzantine government invited the famous Architect from
Centuries passed by and Istanbul come under the rule of Turkey in 1453, the Islamic rulers did not lag behind in protecting and improving Hagia Sophia (they converted in to a mosque), Mehmud 1 (who established a Koranic school, social kitchen and a library in the complex (known as ‘Kulliye’) , Sultan Abdulla Mecid (1847 -49 who did extensive modification works), Mustaffa Kemal Pasha (known as the Athathurk- father of Turky- who is well known for his reformist policies in that nation and who converted Hagia Sophia in to a Museum) all are prominent names associated with this history-rich “temple church mosque museum” who have added value in their tenure as rulers.
Sinan the architect.
Selim has played a major role (during his tenure the building was showing signs of weakness due to ageing) he engaged the great Turkish architect Sinan (who was the most famous architect who built the Ani and Agino churches) for the restoration and strengthening of the structure.
Sinan completed the work creditably and in addition he built two minarets by the sides of the main structure. The construction of these minarets is considered to dampen the seismic energy of the earth quakes thereby protecting the main structure. This theory has been approved by the modern seismologists and hence Sinan is considered as the first ‘engineer in the world who built building that can combat a quake with architectural changes.
Hagia Sophia image courtsey: peraair.net
The modern day restoration works are done by the American Byzantine Institute under Thomas Whitemore as the restorers advance more and more Christian mosaics get uncovered and removal of the Islamic calligraphy remains a sensitive issue. Hence a balanced policy is being adopted giving presence of both style and texture to co-exist.