Hagia Sophia, (or Aya Sofya), is the heart and soul of Istanbul. It originally started as a Greek Orthodox Christian church in 537AD, thought to be the Roman Empire’s first Christian Cathedral, and later turned into an Ottoman mosque between 1453 and 1931. After this, it turned into a museum. It’s most notable feature is the dome, a prominent feature in Byzantine architecture.
Location of Hagia Sophia
Located in the centre of Istanbul, in the area of Sultanahmet Meydani (old town), is is near the Topkapi Palace. Nearby there are many other museums to visit including and a park.
Interior of Hagia Sophia
Its interior is decorated with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings of great artistic value. Interior surfaces are sheathed with polychrome marbles, green and white with purple porphyry, and gold mosaics. The upper gallery is laid out in a horseshoe shape that encloses the nave until the apse. Several mosaics are preserved in the upper gallery, an area traditionally reserved for the Empress and her court. The best-preserved mosaics are located in the southern part of the gallery.
Exterior of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Its interior is decorated with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings of great artistic value.The vast interior has a complex structure. The nave is covered by a central dome which at its maximum is 55.6 m from floor level and rests on an arcade of 40 arched windows. Repairs to its structure have left the dome somewhat elliptical, with the diameter varying between 31.24 and 30.86 m. At the western entrance side and eastern liturgical side, there are arched openings extended by half domes of identical diameter to the central dome, carried on smaller semi-domed exedras; a hierarchy of dome-headed elements built up to create a vast oblong interior crowned by the central dome, with a clear span of 76.2 m (250 ft). The exterior, clad in stucco, was tinted yellow and red during restorations in the 19th century at the direction of the Fossati architects.
The dome of Hagia Sophia has spurred particular interest for many art historians, architects and engineers because of the innovative way the original architects envisioned it. The dome is carried on four spherical triangular pendentives, one of the first large-scale uses of them. The pendentives are the corners of the square base of the dome, which curve upwards into the dome to support it, restraining the lateral forces of the dome and allowing its weight to flow downwards.They were reinforced with large buttresses during Byzantine and later during Ottoman times, under the guidance of the architect Sinan. A total of 24 buttresses were added.
Purpose of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for Byzantine imperial ceremonies, such as coronations. Like other churches throughout Christendom, the basilica offered sanctuary from persecution to outlaws.
Aya Sofya became the first imperial mosque of Istanbul. To the corresponding Waqf were endowed most of the existing houses in the city and the area of the future Topkapı Palace.
In 1935, the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, transformed the building into a museum. The carpets were removed and marble floor decorations such as the Omphalion appeared for the first time in centuries, while the white plaster covering many of the mosaics was removed.