Hagia Sophia (Constantinople)

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The Church of Holy Wisdom

Hagia Sophia (Άγια Σοφία in Greek), the Church of Holy Wisdom, known variously as Sancta Sophia in Latin or Ayasofya in Turkish, is an ancient cathedral of the Church of Constantinople located in modern-day Istanbul, Turkey. It was converted to a mosque by the Turks and is now used as a museum. It is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world and a reference point in history of architecture. (The church is sometimes mistakenly called "Saint Sophia," as though it were named for a saint called Sophia.)



Later history

Mosaic of Jesus Christ

For over 900 years the Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for imperial ceremonies. It was converted to a mosque at the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II in 1453. Since Islam considers the depiction of the human form to be blasphemous— that is, it is iconoclastic—Hagia Sophia's iconographic mosaics were covered with plaster. For almost 500 years the principal mosque of Istanbul, Ayasofya, served as model for many of the Ottoman mosques of Constantinople such as the Shehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Rustem Pasha Mosque.

In 1934, under Turkish president Kemal Atatürk, Hagia Sofia was secularized and turned into the Ayasofya Museum. Nevertheless, the mosaics remained largely plastered over, and the building was allowed to decay. A 1993 UNESCO mission to Turkey noted falling plaster, dirty marble facings, broken windows, decorative paintings damaged by moisture, and ill-maintained lead roofing. Cleaning, roofing and restoration have since been undertaken.

Although Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, are more secular than most Muslim countries, the status of Hagia Sophia remains a sensitive subject. The Islamic calligraphic displays suspended from the main dome remain in place. The mosaics are being gradually uncovered, including some visible from the ground floor.

External links

Sources

  • Mainstone, Rowland J. (1997). Hagia Sophia: Architecture, Structure, and Liturgy of Justinian's Great Church (reprint edition). W W Norton & Co Inc. (ISBN 0500279454)
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