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Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia - the Wisdom of God. The great Byzantine Empire famous masterpiece of architecture, the symbol of the Byzantium's "Golden Age" and one of the largest Christian churches in the world. The height of the cathedral is 55.6 meters; diameter of the dome - 31 meters. Length is 75.6 meters, width -68.4 meters.

Initially the cathedral was built in 324-327 by the emperor Constantine I at the well planed trade area called Augusteon, which was located next to the Imperial Palace in the center of the Constantinople.

In 404, during the famous uprising the cathedral was burned, and the newly built church lived only 10 years as has been destroyed in 415 by a fire. In the same year the Emperor Theodosius II ordered to build a basilica on the same location, which also burned down in 532, during the uprising "Nika". The ruins of the basilica of Theodosius were found in 1936 during the excavation. It gives a hazy understanding about the building: it was five-naval basilica, very large; the main element of the interior was marble.

40 days after the fire, the Emperor Justinian I ordered to build on the same site a beautiful temple of the same name which had to show the greatness of a mighty empire. As Justinian’s planed church should be very large, he bought additional land for the construction, and hired the best architects at the time- Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. For the interior decoration Justinian brought the best marble: eight green marble columns of Ephesus can be seen today. Justinian was so absorbed with the idea to make the temple great and splendor that he used in decorations precious stones, gold, silver and ivory. The construction of the temple cost the sum equal three yearly incomes of the empire.

The consecration of the temple took place on December 27, in 537, by the patriarch Menas of Constantinople. According to the legend, Justinian stepped to the temple and said: "Solomon, I have surpassed thee" referring to the famous Temple of Jerusalem.

The staff of clerics under Justinian consisted of 525 people and 600 - under Heraclius. The maintenance expenditures for the temple were made through imposing taxes upon numerous trade and craft communities.

The Great Cathedral amazed people not for a long: a few years after the construction end, the earthquake destroyed the eastern part of the temple. Later in 989, the cathedral was hit by a new earthquake: the dome was collapsed. In order to reinforce the building, the buttresses were built, which suffer the initial design of the Cathedral. For dome restoration a famous Armenian architect Trdat was invited, who also an author of the Ani Cathedral masterpiece. With great skills Trdat not only coped with the work, but also made the dome higher and stronger.

The church has extremely precious interior decoration before1204, the Crusaders plunder in Constantinople. In 1453, Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople and turned the Cathedral of St. Sophia into a mosque. He added four minarets, smeared mosaics and murals with plaster and named the shrine Hagia Sophia. As the cathedral was built as Christian church with altar to the east, the Muslims had to modify it and put the mihrab in the south-east corner of the cathedral - looking to Mecca.

In 1847 the cathedral was in danger of collapse and the Sultan Abdul-Majid I commissioned architects, brothers Giuseppe and Gaspare Fossati to renovate the temple and it lasted about two years.

In 1935 Ataturk proclaimed the Hagia Sophia as a Museum. Frescoes and mosaics finally gained their freedom from an almost five-century old plaster.

Temple got back to its former luxury decor: walls completely covered with mosaics, as plot and ornamental compositions. Now the images of the Jesus Christ and the Virgin can be seen. There are almost completely preserved mosaic arch presentable to the Archangel Gabriel, the mosaic of the southern entrance hall - St. John Chrysostom, a portrait of the Emperor Alexander. There are also runic inscriptions made on the marble tiles.

Many Islamic elements were added in Ottoman times to the interior of the cathedral: marble fountains, decorations and four oval shields with quotations from the Koran.

In 2007, the number of American political and community leaders organized a movement to return the cathedral to its original status. Their purpose was to stop the daily violations on this historical, cultural and architectural masterpiece, as in the Cathedral which is the Mother Church were conducted trade fairs and national shows. President of the international movement of "Council for the release of Hagia Sophia," Chris Spirou demanded the Hagia Sophia to become a Christian church and the status should be no longer considered as a museum.

The church is located in Sultanahmet borough of Istanbul. 40 under-dome windows well cover all the splendor of the Cathedral, which survives stretching through the history centuries. An unexplainable sense wraps the body and soul standing on the marble floor and looking into the distant heights, as if standing at the epicenter of historical events took place on this wonderful earth.

Cathedral Hagia Sophia was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

By Lilit Vanesyan,


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