Hagia Sophia – The unmisseable event of CEPIC 2011
ByUte KrebsA UNESCO world heritage site since 1985, Hagia Sophia is one of the architectural wonders of the world and an important monument for both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
The so-called Church of Divine Wisdom has been in situ for almost 1500 years on the historic peninsular of Constantinople. Originally commissioned by Constantine the Great, it was completed during the reign of his son and finally dedicated in 360 AD. This first building remained in place for 44 years before being burnt to the ground; a second church on the site lasted only until the Nica uprising of 532.
It was the Byzantine Emperor Justinian who decided on rebuilding the church as the magnificent edifice it became. 7000 stonemasons, bricklayers, painters, sculptors, mosaic artists, woodworkers and lacquerers worked for five years and ten months to create one of the architectural wonders of the world. Legend has it that the structure of Hagia Sophia appeared to Justinian in a dream and he finally walked through its gates on 26 December 537. The weight of the dome has created problems for the structure but a 6th century solution by the architect Isidoros’s nephew is still in use until today.
The greatest upheaval for the Byzantine Empire and indeed much of the western world occurred in Constantinople on 28 May 1453 – the Ottomans were before the city gates and the city fell the very next day. The victorious Mehmet II supposedly arrived at the church and bowed before the structure before declaring it to be a mosque for the new Empire, restoring the building and adding a minaret in the south eastern corner, his son Beyazit created the others in addition.
Like many other important religious buildings in the past, the Hagia Sophia survived the new rule simply by being put to a different religious use. In 1935 the whole building was made in to a museum by Attaturk into a museum and who also had the mosaics restored to their former glory as far as possible.
The opportunity to see this wonderful building and marvel at its history, the gold Byzantine mosaics and amazing space is one that shouldn’t be missed and I for one am very excited to have this opportunity!
- Ute Krebs, akg-images, Berlin
- CEPIC offers a special guided visit of Hagia Sofia on 19 May 2011. For more information please click here
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