Domes with the music of love and peace, Minarets towering like symbols of care, The form that draws the history of the past, that melts into the elegance of the clear blue sky above, the birds that fly eternally in the vastness of the expanse of sky, the clouds that shine on the canvas of sight alone and in groups.

Hagia Sophia is a historical figure that touches the heart of Istanbul’s majesty, which enjoys the breeze and cold of the Bosphorus Strait. It has often been transformed into a focal point even on the world political map. Even the geography of Istanbul, which demarcates the East and the West, marks the history of civilization and many empires, especially Byzantine and Ottoman. The art and architecture of Hagia Sophia highly  matters and it is much important to world legacy. Hagia Sophia, traces its nomenclature from the Greek word “Hagia” means God and “Sophia” which means wisdom.

In this “Divine Wisdom ”, merges logic of Greek theology. It was originally built as a cathedral in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in the 6th century under the direction and supervision of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Parthenon in Athens, the Hagia Sophia is a long-enduring symbol of the cosmopolitan city. Hagia Sophia was built over a period of six years by Architects Isidoros (Milet) and Anthemius (Tralles).

Building  Aesthetics

The original church was later renovated and rebuilt over many times. The building contains two floors centered on a large nave that has a great dome ceiling, along with smaller domes. The building dimensions In plan is about 82 meters long and 73 meters wide. The dome is 33 meters in diameter and its crown rises 55 meters above the ground. In plan the building takes almost a square shape.

There are three aisles separated by columns, above this is gallery spaces. The walls above the galleries are detailed with windows with tinted glass. A circular arcade made of 40 arched slit windows surrounding the dome bottom level. The ambiance of the space itself is amazing in the light that comes through the windows. In the glare of daylight, the dome feels as it has spread itself out in the sky without noticing any support rising from below. The light reflected from the inner mosaics and crystalline surfaces reveal the unparalleled mystics of the historical empires.

The central or Imperial Door provides the most perfect vision to the interior of the church. The main attraction of the structure is achieved by its symmetrical Centralised planning and mass scale, and it gives a serial vision capture to the viewer. Domes and arches mixed exterior view is fulfilled with windows and slits. Inside the dome pendentives, there are four concave triangles to set the dome and circular shape rather than a rectangular base.The decorations within the Hagia Sophia changed each time by a variety of design patterns. pillars capitals are carved design of a clear Byzantine motif tracery of vine leaves and foliage. The outer face of galleries continues the play of light and shadows with pearl and ebony inlay.

Hagia Sophia has been conceived as a unification of all architectural traditions of antiquity, ranging from the Eastern tradition of architecture like Mesopotamian, Persian and Syrian traditions merging constructive Greek-Roman and additions Islamic style. Speaking about this unique style, it influenced later architecture Romanesque and Renaissance.It might be an exaggeration to say that the Hagia Sophia is a church by considering its exterior form. Domes were once an important element of the Christian era. The concept of Islamic architecture as it stands today is shaped by different architectural styles from the times immemorial. Ottoman architecture has inspired much of the later Islamic architecture.

Materials used

The marble used for the floor and ceiling was produced in Anatolia (present-day eastern Turkey) and Syria. The interior is lined with large marble slabs that are said to be designed like the concept of moving water. Bricks used in the walls and parts of the floor, brought from as far away as North Africa. Columns were imported from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, and from Egypt. Byzantine mosaics made from gold, silver, glass, terra cotta, and colorful stones and portraying holy scenes and figures. some of the pillars and capitals were made of white marble. Also, iron and bronze, as materials and construction elements are present in Hagia Sophia.

Structural Identity

The geometry of Hagia Sophia is based on a Greek cross layout, square box. This base isn’t perfectly straight, when it goes to height, curves into the dome. By this design helping to support and allowing the weight to flow downwards and cause less tension on the structure. In total, 40 ribs were incorporated that extend from the bottom to the top, allowing the load of the structure to transmit between the windows to the pendentives. The previous dome was a challenge by its weight, and that caused it to collapse completely after a series of earthquakes in the year 558. At the time of reconstruction, they made structural improvements by using lighter materials and rebuilt all the interior walls first to make them vertical and strong enough to support the weight of the new dome and incorporated constructive elements that gave the dome its current aspect and dimensions. Hagia Sophia is not a structure that is as important to the flying buttress as it is to other large churches in general. It is more concentrated on its domes based load balancing features.

Church into Mosque

Another chapter in Hagia Sophia’s life began in 1453. Constantinople became Istanbul. Mehmed II, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire conquered and won over the Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans wanted to reintroduce the headquarters of an empire as a symbol of their victory. They tried to change the signs of building. It was a political strategy too. They added some of the Characters like minarets, “four slender pencil-shaped minarets” are more than 60 meters high, a great chandelier, a mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca), and a minbar (pulpit).

Moreover, a unique Islamic calligraphy collection, which does not exist in any other mosque in the world was added to its interior walls. His son Bayezid II, erected the Red Minaret and narrow White Minaret. The two identical minarets on the western side were built by renowned Ottoman architect Sinan in the 1500s. This minaret was also used for religious purposes like the Islamic call to prayer and to fortify the structure following earthquakes that struck the city around this time. Changes occurred on the inside as well. Many mosaics figures covered with plaster but many elements still remain including the relics Theotokos [Virgin Mary with child] in the apse and added some new paintings, calligraphy designed by Kazasker Mustafa İzzet, an ottoman military judge and statesman best known for his calligraphy. When the building was converted into a museum in 1935, through an official degree of Ataturk, white plaster was removed from the interior, revealing many concealed mosaics and marble decorations.

The style of the Hagia Sophia, in particular its dome, influenced Ottoman architecture, most notably in the Blue Mosque, built in Istanbul during the 17th century, by sultan Ahmed khan.

Time and Space

Hagia Sophia was a church for 900 years and a mosque for 482 years. In 1934, the government of Turkey secularized the Hagia Sophia, thus turning it into a museum considered as a “Historical value”. It is also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage site. In  2020 it was again converted into a mosque. Thus reactivating in the world political debates. The dome and the magic of the light within must still remain as a  symbol of the materiality of the past and soul of architectural beauty, no matter how political or religious conceptions may confront it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here