Hagia Sophia

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Hagia Sophia
Coordinates : 41 ° 0 ′ 31 ″  N , 28 ° 58 ′ 48 ″  E Coordinates: 41 ° 0 ′ 31 ″  N , 28 ° 58 ′ 48 ″  E
place Istanbul
(formerly Constantinople )
Laying of the foundation stone February 23, 532
opening December 27, 537
Direction / grouping Roman Imperial Church (537–1054)
Orthodox (1054–1204)
Catholic (1204–1261)
Greek Orthodox (1261–1453)
Islam (1453–1931)
Museum (1934–2020)
• Islam (since 2020 )
Architectural information
Dome diameter Ø 31 m
Dome height 56 m
Minarets 4th

Website: https://muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/ayasofya

The Hagia Sophia (from the Greek Ἁγία Σοφία “holy wisdom”; Turkish Ayasofya-i Kebir Camii Ayasofya for short ) or Sophienkirche is a former Byzantine church built from 532 to 537 AD . This was used as a mosque from 1453 to 1935 - and has been used again since 2020 . From 1935 to 2020 it served as a museum ( Ayasofya Müzesi , "Hagia Sophia Museum").

Hagia Sophia is located in Eminönü , a district in the European part of Istanbul . After two previous structures burned down, Emperor Justinian pursued a particularly ambitious building policy program with the construction of a domed basilica in the 6th century AD. It is not only the last of the large churches of late antiquity that were built in the Roman Empire since Constantine the Great , but in its architectural uniqueness is often considered a church without models and without imitation. The dome of Hagia Sophia, originally with a span of 33 meters, remains the largest brick dome in architectural history to be erected over only four support points. With the gigantic implementation and the proportions and special harmony of its interior, it is considered one of the most important buildings of all time. Due to its special structure and the new idea, first realized here by Isidor von Milet and Anthemios von Tralleis, to penetrate the central area and the longitudinal basilica, a building was created that explored the limits of the technical possibilities of late antiquity. It is one of the boldest human constructions and one of the most important structures of the past 1500 years. As the last large and by far the most important building of early Byzantine architecture and art of late antiquity , it is seen in its function as a central place of Byzantine rulership representation as an embodiment of the Byzantine imperial idea and is therefore one of the most important key works for the understanding of the cultural-historical phenomenon of Byzantium. At the same time, it brought about a new paradigm of church construction, which was in part in contrast to its older predecessors and was subsequently to form one of the cornerstones of Christian architecture , which had a lasting influence on sacred architecture in East and West. The Hagia Sophia was not least built as an expression and demonstration of imperial power Justinian, by the uniqueness of his client and the exhibition itself manifested its outstanding position in the building, it also makes the claim that Justinian divine in the earthly dominion over the Christian world to show off. Hagia Sophia was the cathedral of Constantinople, the main church of the Byzantine Empire and the religious center of Orthodoxy and is now a landmark of Istanbul.

As the coronation church of the Byzantine emperors (since 641), as the cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the location of important historical events, the Hagia Sophia is in a special way with the Byzantine history and generally as a universal model church of the capital of the Christian Oikumene , Constantinople, with the history of ideas of Christianity in Turkey . Planned as a building of universal importance, it also remained a universal Christian-spiritual center through the Middle Ages. On the right side of the naos , the omphalion therefore also symbolizes the center of the earth, the proverbial “ navel of the world ”. Its construction and symbolic power were of extraordinary importance, especially for Orthodox Christianity and the empire. Therefore, most Orthodox Christians still consider it a great sanctuary.

After Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453, Christian insignia, interior fittings, decorations and bells from Hagia Sophia were removed or covered with plaster. Subsequently adapted as the main mosque of the Ottomans , it had a great influence on the development of Ottoman architecture. The Ottoman sultans of the 16th and 17th centuries based the mosques in the large imperial kitchens on the architectural model of Hagia Sophia. Major works were created here by Sinan . In general, among the important early Christian sacred buildings, the Hagia Sophia has survived in a purely architectural perspective less changed than the great early Christian basilicas of Rome and Jerusalem, despite the Islamic use.

At the suggestion of Ataturk , the first President of Turkey, the Council of Ministers decided on November 24, 1934 to convert the mosque into a museum. On July 10, 2020, the highest administrative court in Turkey decided that Hagia Sophia may again be used as a mosque in the future. By order of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , July 24, 2020 has been set for the first Islamic prayer.

Classification in terms of building history

Interlocking geometries hide the enormous support system that supports the huge dome. This is hidden behind elegantly arranged galleries, which give the building the illusion of the dematerialization of its vertical wall surfaces.

The Hagia Sophia is one of the outstanding buildings of late antiquity and is the most important example of the domed basilica building type . The domed basilica combines structural elements with a longer history. These include the basilicas , which were built during the Roman Republican period as places of assembly, market and jurisdiction, as well as the domed structures of Roman mausoleums as they were built during the imperial era .

The most striking element of Hagia Sophia is the monumental dome that dominates the entire interior. It rests on pendants between four mighty pillars . In the north and south of the rectangular central building, the sideshift is intercepted by the longwall face above the aisles. In the west and east this task is performed by conches with half-domes, the abutments of which are in turn located in a total of four smaller domes. The imperial grandstand is located above the narthex and a gallery for the women ( gynaikeion ) on each side . The architectural significance of the dome is not due to its size, because the Romans were able to build even larger domes as early as the first century after Christ, but to the fact that it rests on only four pillars for the first time and thus floats over the space below. The attempt to increase the architectural challenge with an extremely flat dome failed due to repeated violent earthquakes.

The church dedicated to divine wisdom stands on a rectangle around 80 m long and 70 m wide. The span of the dome is around 32 m; the dome room is 55 m high from the floor to the top of the dome.

Building history

Location of the church in the former palace district of Constantinople. On the south side of the church was the Augustaion with the monumental statue of Justinian I.
The mosaic from the 11th century shows Mary enthroned in the middle, on her right you can see Emperor Justinian with the model of the church, on her left Emperor Constantine with the model of the city of Constantinople.
Donor mosaic, 11th century. Maria as Theotokos , surrounded by the church donor Emperor Justinian with the model of Hagia Sophia and by Emperor Constantine as the city founder with the model of Constantinople.
Territory of the Eastern Roman Empire under Justinian I.

Constantinople as the center of Christianity

City map around 1420, in Cristoforo Buondelmontis Liber insularum archipelagi . Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France , Département des Cartes et Plans, Ge FF 9351 Rés., Fol. 37r
The contemporary portrait of Justinian's donor in the sanctuary of San Vitale symbolizes Justinian's religious self-image. Holding the patena, he himself prepares the liturgy in communion with the priesthood

Strategically located on the European side of the Bosporus between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Constantinople was the capital of the medieval Roman Empire known as the Byzantine Empire (395-1453). It was one of the largest and most powerful urban centers of the Old World and capital of the since then Christian Roman Empire, thus the center of Christianity. Along with Jerusalem, Constantinople was an important Christian pilgrimage destination; Marian and Christ patrimony were gathered here and venerated in special church shrines. The cathedral of Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia, which was completed in the 6th century, defined the religious centrality of the new Rome, which was soon as large and richly populated as Rome. The church was the main and episcopal church of the royal seat of Constantinople. In the sight of the city, its dome formed the central landmark. Visitors who entered the city via the Golden Horn were the first to see its silhouette. It was felt as a structural symbol in the personification of the emperor of the Christian empire. As the largest covered building in history to date, it is the only largely preserved area of ​​rule of a state that saw itself in the unbroken succession of the Roman Empire. It was here where the Christian liturgy took place in the presence and performance of sacred acts in the ceremonial appearance of the Roman emperor, despite his lay position, in a quasi-priestly function. Only the emperor was exempt from the general ban on entering the chancel. Accompanied by senators and bishops, the ceremonial of the Little and Big Entry was celebrated as a state act. That the new sacred main building of the empire should even surpass that of ancient Rome, the Pantheon , can be interpreted from the diagonal between the main pillars of Hagia Sophia. The two apses with the pendentives thus form a cut-out part of a huge dome, which can be understood to be identical in dimension to the Pantheon.

After Emperor Constantine I began building the first church on this prominent elevation of the new capital of the Roman Empire, which was intended as an alternative to Rome, initially as a palace auditorium, the predecessor building built as a basilica was completed under Constantius II . The church had no name, but was called Megálē Ekklēsíā (Greek: Μεγάλη Ἐκκλησία “Great Church”). As was common in the fourth century, it was probably a domed basilica . The later news that there were numerous valuable works of art there, which Constantine had brought to Constantinople from all over the empire to decorate his new capital, including seventy statues of Greek gods that, stripped of their religious meaning, served as ornaments, is legendary. If it has a real core, it can only refer to the time of its initial use as a palace hall. This church burned down in June 404 during a revolt of the followers of John Chrysostom , the Patriarch of Constantinople, after he had been deposed at the instigation of the Empress Aelia Eudoxia . Rebuilt by Theodosius II in the same place that also built the neighboring Great Imperial Palace , this second building was burned down again on January 15, 532, soon after the reign of Emperor Justinian during the so-called Nika uprising . Shortly afterwards, on Justinian's instructions, the third church was built in the same place. The details of the building history were passed down primarily by the contemporary Prokopios of Caesarea , who reported in his De aedificiis (I, 1) around 560 on the numerous buildings that were erected under Justinian's rule in the Roman Empire . The work was evidently commissioned by the emperor, who is sometimes praised in a panegyric way .


Figure Isidore von Milet with the Hagia Sophia, balustrade Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


The two architects of Hagia Sophia, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemios of Tralleis, were mathematicians and engineers with both a broad theoretical and practical knowledge. Both edited older tracts, but also wrote their own work. From the imperial side, with the order to build the Hagia Sophia, they were confronted with a task for which there was no adequate experience until then. For the conception and construction they therefore had to fall back on tried and tested manuals of mathematical principles, which they presumably also amended. From this they resorted to the octagon as the basic geometry, which, with its rational page numbers, was essentially suitable in ancient surveying and also for the construction of such a large building. With the semi-hemispherical vault construction standing over a square floor plan, aspects of the calculation of structures with irrational numbers and irrational relationships between the base area and the dome-crowned superstructure are basic problems. For the planning of the dome, however, expressible figures in the execution of both exact and communicable calculations directly on the construction site were essential.

The fact that the church was built in just five years speaks in favor of extremely conscientious planning. The tremendous speed with which it was erected between 532 and 537 makes it one of the most successful structural engineering feats of all time, especially due to the fact that some completely new structural elements were used here. The pendants extended far beyond previous constructions. It used to be assumed that they were introduced here for the first time and had reached their full development at the same time. The four large arches on the main yokes of the cornice with 31 m surpass those of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican by more than 6 m, although this was built a whole millennium later and took many times the time of the completion of Hagia Sophia. The builders of the great Sultan's foundations in the Ottoman Empire, who took the Hagia Sophia as a model, intimidated the structural challenges. They had difficulty building a dome the size of Hagia Sophia.

Overall geometric design
Overall geometric design of the individual components
Longitudinal section
Floor plan, in the upper half the gallery, in the lower half the ground floor

Hagia Sophia has long posed major problems for interpretative architecture and art history. With its innovative designs, it is outwardly far removed from the norms of the ancient order architecture. Nevertheless, it remains stuck in the building traditions of classical antiquity. The design is based on a fundamental mathematical principle. So Justinian was able to pace the building at ceremonially predetermined points of action during the church liturgy on high feast days. Since the architects Isidor von Milet and Anthemios von Tralleis were among the best mathematicians of their time, it made sense to look for a mathematical order for this “space miracle”. Since the building itself had to be questioned about the construction principle without any direct textual knowledge and offered the solution to the construction problem, the floor plans of the Hagia Sophia were searched for their dimensions. Due to its careful layout, the optically barely perceptible square of 31 m of the Naos was quickly recognized as a basic element of the construction. From this an attempt was made to calculate the dimensions of the Greek architects by calculating back to the Byzantine foot. This was especially necessary because the irrational numbers of the square and circle number = 1.414213562 ... and would have posed unsolvable problems for the engineers. They would be of little use as a basis for building planning. In applied ancient mathematics, with more suitable rational values ​​derived from pairs of side and diagonal numbers, much simpler calculation methods were possible than they offered approximate values ​​of and .

So it was known that ancient engineers used very simple, rational numerical solutions for the irrational route conditions, with which exact building measurements can be carried out. So it was simply shown as what results in a system of integral dimensions if suitable values ​​are selected. So a circle diameter of 70 Byzantine feet gives a circumference of 220 feet and a diameter of 105 feet gives a circumference of 330 feet. For the irrational route ratios in the square with the square number , the ancient civil engineers used very precise approximate values ​​that are still available today in the DIN paper formats. This series of "side and diagonal numbers " can be represented in the lines of an octogram and forms the dimensional basis for the construction of Hagia Sophia.

For a long time, however, a false assumption was responsible for this, in that modern art historians assumed in the base square of the dome with 100 Byzantine feet that this problem was still not so easily solved. For the side length of 100 feet, there is an irrational diagonal number, which subsequently results in a number of further irrational distances due to the geometric dependence. With this, on a 100-foot square, it was not possible to deduce the further routes and elevations under construction. The problem was solved late, but then easily, by a mathematical trick. Assuming that the 31 m of the square were calculated to be 99 Byzantine feet, then the rational value for the diagonal is almost exactly 140 feet. The error is only in the thousandths of a part and could be ignored during the construction process. If you now form an octagon or octagram with such a square with a side length of 99 feet and a diagonal of 140 feet, geometric lines are created, which in turn can be interpreted as whole numbers with the slightest deviation (e.g. 29, 41). Further routes with the same properties can be combined by division from the geometry of the octagram by division and combination to form the actual geometry of the floor plan of Hagia Sophia, which can thus be precisely defined.

The floor plan was developed from this in the clearest possible way using computational geometry, i.e. an interplay between arithmetic and constructive geometry.

In order to complete the design geometry, some additional distance values ​​are to be used as almost whole-number multiples of and , which are commensurate with the system of measurement chosen by Anthemios and Isidoros. The distance values ​​71 (41 x ) and 440 (140 x ) are even exact according to ancient calculation methods. For the construction it could thus be proven that the ratio of the side to the diagonal in the square, which leads to the series of numbers at higher values ​​(12, 17, 29, 41, 70, 99, 140), is largely used in the geometry of Hagia Sophia found.

Calculation of the dome
Schematic representation of a pendentive dome

The most difficult area structurally and technically was the construction of the central dome. As a pendentive dome, its constructive solution had to be solved by calculating the spherical triangles that were built structurally as pendentives. The task of solving the composite vault shapes, the upper hemisphere (= dome) of which rises above a larger, but reduced to spherical triangles, was to dimension the spherical triangles by separating four spherical segments from the hemisphere using the half cube inscribed on it and the resulting remaining area can be precisely determined. In the mathematical solution of this problem, handed down in Heron's collection of vault calculations, lies the real key to understanding the design geometry of Hagia Sophia and the surveying system on which it is based, on the basis of which the entire planning could be carried out. However, the special thing about the task was that, in contrast to all other vault calculations, surprisingly not the diameter numbers compatible with the simplified value (22/7) (e.g. 7 or 14 etc.), but those of the so-called side and diagonal series were used.

The row of side and diagonal numbers is based on a theorem of the Pythagoreans and appears for the first time in writing in Plato's "Res Publica". The side and diagonal number series allows a systematic sequence of very precise approximate values ​​for the irrational ratio : 1 to be calculated. According to Plato, the Pythagoreans developed this theorem on diagonals and sides as follows: if the diagonal gets the length of its side, it becomes a side, while the side that is doubled and gets its diagonal becomes a diagonal. It can also be expressed as an expression in the structure of ever larger isosceles right-angled triangles according to the rule: leg plus hypotenuse results in new leg, twice leg plus hypotenuse results in new hypotenuse. Starting from the square with the side 1 (monas), the following diagonal and page number series (d / s) develop: 1/1, 3/2, 7/5, 17/12, 41/29, 99/70 etc. This special sequence of squares gives an increasingly precise approximation for , since the difference between the square of the diagonals and the double square of the sides is always +1 or - 1, i.e. in no case more than one unit (monas).

In addition to the pragmatically simple result of this rule, it also had a cosmological meaning for ancient thought, since the squares are all generated from the smallest unit of the "monas". Because of its practical application, combinations of the side and diagonal number series in Heron's textbooks were used as approximate values for the area calculation. Since the geometric shape of a pendentive dome is defined by a square, it also had the basic structural solution of the dome of Hagia Sophia, using one of the squares of the side and diagonal row, ready. The care with which a square 31 m long has just been taken makes it logical to assume that Isidorus and Tralleis chose the value of 99 feet and, with the diagonal dimension of 140 feet, took a simple measure for the planning of the building. However, this measure is then also commensurate with the value 22/7 and, on the other hand, as a derivative of the side and diagonal number series 140/99, an approximation value that is accurate to the fourth decimal place is generated.

The originally constructed diameter of the dome of Hagia Sophia could be precisely determined with this method. It is based on the 105 feet value and not the 99 feet base square as this measurement is incompatible . Only when the realized dome is placed about 1 m behind the opening ring of the square can an integral circumference of 330 feet be constructed with the diameter of 105 feet and the rational value for = . The theoretical foundations of the architects are clearly taken from the work of Heron of Alexandria . The exact dimensions of Hagia Sophia can still be found in examples of arithmetic books such as the manuscript "Gaeodesia", created in the 10th century, which operates under the fictional author Heron of Byzantium. It was only with this small intervention in the pendent dome system that the architects were able to modulate the different vault dimensions and transfer them to Heron's tried and tested method. From this method, not only could the trades be determined exactly, it was for example possible to determine an exact distance of 8.5 feet between the windows by precisely determining the dome circumference and the 40 regularly distributed windows.

Building history

The medallion in the middle of the Byzantine Fighter Capital shows Justinian's monogram
In addition to Justinian's monogram, that of Empress Theodora is also shown in the fighter capitals in the middle of the acanthus leaves

Barely a month after the destruction, on February 23, 532, according to Johannes Zonaras, the construction of a new, more powerful church began, the form of which is said to have been revealed to Justinian in a dream. He wanted to found a church “like it had n’t existed since the time of Adam and such as it would never exist again”, and he also wanted to surpass the Polyeuktoskirche built by Anicia Juliana . This was built around 520 as an image of the Temple of Solomon and was widely admired. This seems to have spurred Justinian's ambition, and he is said to have invested 360 quintals of gold in the new building. According to a report in the journal "Nature" it was 145 tons of gold .

In the late Roman Empire, since Constantine I, the church was not an independent order existing alongside the secular order. Justinian in particular strived for a close “interaction” (a symphonia ) between state and church; No church was allowed to be rebuilt or repaired if it was dilapidated without his consent. Justinian felt personally responsible for Hagia Sophia. He should not only visit the construction site every day, but - according to Prokopios  - also actively participate in its planning.

The architect Anthemios von Tralleis and the mathematician Isidor von Milet were responsible for the construction management. Over a hundred foremen under their command they commanded an army of ten thousand workers. The church was completed within almost six years. After the death of Anthemios in 534, Isidore was solely responsible for its construction. During the very short construction period, cracks repeatedly appeared in the walls. From today's perspective, the cause was probably the insufficient drying of the mortar , which could not set due to the too rapid construction progress and thus prevented the walls from developing an increasing strength parallel to the construction progress. This was reinforced by the fact that in Justinian's time the layers of mortar were almost as thick as the layers of brick. Justinian himself is said to have recognized this problem and ordered the demolition of the still too damp walls when the wall collapses on the north and south arches.

The shell was inaugurated on December 27, 537. According to legend, the emperor could not cope with his excitement at the inauguration: he should drive in his triumphal chariot, thank God and (in allusion to the temple in Jerusalem , which was still used as a benchmark for Christian sacred buildings , and probably also with reference on the Polyeuktoskirche) exclaimed:

“Glory and honor to the Most High, who considered me worthy to accomplish such a work. Solomon , I have surpassed you. "

On the occasion of the reconstruction and the new consecration, the liturgical hymn ( contact ) "On earthquake and fire blight" by Romanos Melodos was created . He is considered to be the most important Byzantine church poet. Hagia Sophia was used as a state church early on. All major ecclesiastical acts took place here with the ceremonial participation of the emperor. Almost all Byzantine rulers have been crowned here since 641. After the occupation of Constantinople by the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the house of God served Venetian clergy as a Roman Catholic church until the Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople in 1261 . It was then consecrated to the Orthodox rite again until 1453 .


Central domes of Hagia Sophia, April 2013

For centuries, Roman architects had gained extensive experience building mighty domes. The analysis of the findings of these domes shows that it was mostly the material opus caementitium , Roman concrete , that made such supporting structures possible in the first place. In the case of Hagia Sophia, however, the proven concrete support was dispensed with. The entire building is - typical for Eastern Stream  - with the exception of the main pillars in brick construction .

First in August 553 and then on May 7, 558, the extremely flat dome collapsed during an earthquake and was brought into its current form by Isidorus of Miletus the Younger in the years 558-562 after a revision of the building plan . Isidoros, the nephew of the previous site manager, increased the arch of the dome, which was sloping too flat, and had the buttresses reinforced. The new dome was inaugurated on December 24, 562, while Justinian I was still alive .

Even later, earthquakes caused problems on the dome. After the great earthquake in 989, in which the western domed arch collapsed, Emperor Basil II entrusted the Armenian architect Trdat with the reconstruction of the church. In 1346 the eastern dome collapsed after violent tremors. Only then were retaining walls attached to the outside of the church for structural reasons; they changed the original visual impression significantly.

Today there are 40 windows in the dome of Hagia Sophia, one each between the supporting vault frames made of bricks and mortar . However, it is usually assumed that the windows should prevent the formation of cracks in the dome by letting the cracks run into the void and thus prevent the further spread of the cracks with possible destruction of the entire dome. It is believed that the master builders recognized these relationships using the example of the Pantheon and for this reason included window openings at the particularly endangered base of the dome.

Due to its immense dome, which floats almost weightlessly over the main room, Hagia Sophia was considered the eighth wonder of the world in late antiquity and the Middle Ages . For a millennium it was by far the largest church in Christendom with a top height of 55 m and a dome diameter of approx. 33 m. The roof of the church was gilded for many centuries, this only changed with the invasion of the Muslim conquerors.

As the region around the Sea of ​​Marmara is still at risk of earthquakes, there are serious fears for the dome today. The Turkish government, in cooperation with UNESCO, has appointed a commission of experts to deal with this topic.

Mosaic and marble jewelry

Byzantine mosaics in Hagia Sophia based on drawings by the Ticino brothers Fossati (1847)

Even at the time of the conquest of Constantinople, only a few mosaics from the time of construction were preserved. Probably there were no mosaics with human or animal representations until the time after the Byzantine iconoclasm (729–843). Ornamental mosaics were preserved in the side rooms and on the gallery.

The little that was not destroyed during and after the transformation into a mosque has been exposed again today. These include the particularly valuable mosaics on the upper galleries, the Emperor Alexander (912–913), Empress Zoe (1028–1050) with her husband Constantine IX. Monomachus , Emperor Johannes II. Komnenos (1118–1143) with his wife Irene and their son Alexios († 1142) and fragments show Jesus as judge of the world (late 13th / early 14th century).

Jesus Christ as Pantocrator from the monumental Deësis mosaic on the south pore

The group of figures with Christ Pantocrator (ruler of the world) above the imperial door in the inner narthex (9th century) is also significant in terms of art history . The kneeling emperor without name inscription is today mostly with Leon VI. (886-912) identified. Another remarkable lunette mosaic is located above the southwest exit of this room, the Porta Aurea , through which the emperor entered . It shows Mary with the child together with Emperor Constantine, who gives her Constantinople and Emperor Justinian, who hands her Hagia Sophia. The oldest surviving figural mosaics from the 9th century are on the northern shield wall. You can see John Chrysostom , Ignatius the Younger and Ignatius Theophorus of Antioch . The vault is with the seraphim to Pendentif Zwickel decorated. The corresponding blessing pantocrator in the dome zenith was destroyed by the conquerors. In the apse there is also a Madonna and not far away remains of the Archangels Gabriel and Michael .

An important key to the mosaics of Hagia Sophia are the drawings by the Ticino brothers Fossati , who from 1847 were busy with the first modern renovation and inventory of Hagia Sophia and who inspected the valuable building stock after the removal of the Islamic whitewash. After protests by the imams , the mosaics were whitewashed again a short time later. As the later re-discovery showed, further mosaics had been damaged in the meantime and some were even completely wiped out.

The Omphalion

The walls, which were clad with marble and porphyry slabs up to the vault , were attached in such a way that their pattern doubled in mirror image. The floor is covered with slabs of Prokonnesian marble . In front of the second pillar on the right is the rectangular omphalion (meaning "navel of the world") made of black, green and red marble disks, which marks the place that the emperor occupied during the liturgy .

Even in the early Byzantine Ekphraseis of the church, the marble floor, like the marble columns and the other interior fittings were perceived as particularly impressive. The texture, color and pattern of the carefully cut marble slabs were interpreted with evocative powers of a mystical meaning on a par with the acheiropoieton and signs of the presence of God. The marble has been described as a glimpse of nature, landscapes, meadows and forests. Prokopios of Caesarea ( De Aedificiis , I, 1, 59–60) reported on the building as a vision of nature and saw a flowering meadow in the topos of the marble. In his Ekphrasis on the occasion of the second consecration of Hagia Sopia on December 24, 562, the Byzantine poet Paulus Silentiarius compared the marble of the church with nature and in the architectural and sculptural elements he saw a forest filled with flowers of different colors (columns in the naos) or as if made of wax and ivory (alabaster of the anvil) or animated with roses, lilies and anemones (Phrygian marble of the columns between the naos and the side aisles). Silentarius felt the existence of the Holy Spirit in these architectural elements, which to him did not appear static but full of movement. In deeper theological interpretations of the interior of the church, this was set in the 12th century with pregnancy and a theologically deeper parallel to Mother Mary as Chora tou Achoretou (container of boundless divinity), in which marble as the main material of the interior bears testimony to this idea . The special quality of the proconnesian marble was connected in the medieval imagination of the Byzantines as a representation and realization of the miracle of the Incarnation of Christ, the conception of the Virgin Mary with the Logos as well as the body of Christ. Another idea was the emulation of marble as frozen water from the prehistoric times of the creation of the world and the Ocean. Prokonnesian marble was considered to be the embodiment of the ocean in the 6th century, with which the entire spacious floor of Hagia Sophia was furnished. Hence, it has often been described as an idea of ​​marine life and images of the seascape. The floor of St. Mark's Church in Venice was made from these same marble slabs in the 12th century, following his example. Marble in the theological interpretation as the frozen water of the “primordial cold” showed its original light by polishing the smooth marble surface - as an active principle of the logo - which was once captured in the material structure of the marble. The image of the Chora tou Achoretou is also the inspiration for the new building of the Saint Nicholas National Shrines in Manhattan, in which Santiago Calatrava developed his idea of ​​the design of the church from the foundation mosaic of the Enthroned Mother of God of Hagia Sophia.

A small bell from Hagia Sophia was stored by the Ottomans in the Museum of Historical Weapons.
Photograph by the court photographer Abdullah Frères des Sultan Abdülhamid II (now the Library of Congress Abdul-Hamid II Collection Washington, DC )


For nine bells, which the Venetian doge Orso I donated to Hagia Sophia in 865, a bell tower was probably built on the west facade. There are also sources that tell of twelve donated bells. The small bell tower on the west facade was probably not built until the time of the Crusaders and was preserved until the 18th century. It was part of the Orthodox mass rite of the church that the bells rang during the service. In 1453, when the Turks launched the last successful attack on Constantinople, the last Eastern Roman emperor Constantine XI. the golden storm bells ring . The bell was completely destroyed by the Turkish conquerors. In a well-known Greek lament about the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, 300 bells and 62 bells are reported that Hagia Sophia is said to have had last.

The fall of Constantinople: Hagia Sophia becomes a mosque

Hagia Sophia, Louis Haghe (1852)

In order to prevent the destruction of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II had sought the voluntary surrender by agreement ( ṣulḥan ), but a call to surrender to Emperor Constantine XI. had been unsuccessful. On May 27, 1453, the Sultan finally announced to his troops that the city , which was now to be conquered by force ( ʿanwatan ), would be open to plunder for three days. On the same day the last service took place in the cathedral, held jointly by Orthodox and Catholic priests. When the city fell on May 29, 1453, the church was looted by the attackers and the people who fled to Hagia Sophia were partly desecrated, partly killed and mostly enslaved . Already in the afternoon there was a call to prayer , which the Sultan said on the altar. With reference to the contemporary historian Dukas , Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall describes the fact that he should have ridden into the Hagia Sophia on horseback as a “little fairy tale of European historian”. The following day Mehmed II visited the city. The Ottoman chronicler Tursun Bey, who witnessed the conquest of Constantinople, describes in hisتاريخ ابو الفتح / Tārīḫ-i Ebū ʾl-Fetḥ  / 'Story of the Father of Conquest', how the Sultan climbed onto the dome of Hagia Sophia and looked from there regretfully at the dilapidated and ruined annexes and annexes.

The transformation was completed in the years that followed. Church bells , altar and liturgical furnishings were destroyed or carried away. Only one bell seems to have stood the test of time in an Ottoman weapons museum. Christian insignia were partially replaced by Muslim ones, the icons removed, mosaics and wall paintings partially destroyed, whitewashed or plastered, and crosses exchanged for the crescent moon . Inside the church, the components necessary for use as a mosque were inserted and the floor was covered with carpets. The northern main pillar was later provided with a sultan's lodge.

The external impression of the church was mainly changed by the fact that a minaret was built on the flanks of the church as early as 1453 . Two more were added in the following decades, the two oldest were demolished in 1573 and replaced by new ones, so that the building is now surrounded by four minarets. In 1574 the baptistery was converted into a tomb for Selim II .

Today's structure and equipment

View from one of the side aisles into the northwestern conche of the main nave
The Islamic whitewashing of the four seraphs in the pendentives was, for example, reversed on the occasion of Istanbul's appointment as the 2010 Capital of Culture

At the suggestion of Ataturk , the first President of Turkey, the Council of Ministers decided on November 24, 1934 to convert the mosque into a museum. As a result, the history of the building became more and more visible and its continuous use as a religious site became clear. The last turning point in architectural and art history at Hagia Sophia of 1453 is embedded in the present day presentation in the context of its entire history. Directors of the museum, such as Feridun Dirimtekin (1955 to 1971), contributed significantly to this development. In the endeavor to make the original church interior largely tangible again, care was taken not to destroy the later Muslim fixtures, although in some points compromises had to be made due to protests from the population.


The mihrab , the Muslim prayer niche

In front of the entrance to the church, you can still see some of the foundations of the building from the fifth century and the bell tower of the Latin Empire (13th century). The base of the building forms a rectangle of around 70 m × 75 m. The church had two vestibules in the west, the so-called narthex and the outer exonarthex. There are still some non-figurative mosaics from the Justinian era. Five gates - all but one walled up - led from the atrium into this hall, five more from here into the narthex. Above the middle of the gates is a tenth-century mosaic showing the emperors Constantine and Justinian offering a city (Constantinople) and a church (Hagia Sophia) to the enthroned Mary with the Christ child. The most impressive mosaic of the narthex shows the enthroned Christ above the imperial gate , the middle of the nine entrances to the main nave. This was reserved for the ruler alone, its door frame is made of bronze .


Interior with the nameplates Mohammed , Allah and Abu Bakr
Müezzin Mahfili, the muezzin's pedestal in Hagia Sophia; before that the omphalion

The main room or naos (Greek ναός "temple") is dominated by the 31 meter diameter and 56 meter high dome , the area of ​​which is 755 m². There are also smaller half-domes and other shell-shaped domes in the west and east. In the Pendentifs six leaf are angels depicted. The main dome, the half-domes, the vaults of the narthex, the side aisles and the galleries - a total of over 10,000 m² - were originally covered with gold-primed mosaics. Rare marble inlays from all parts of the Roman Empire were used for the magnificent antique cladding of the columns and walls.

The apse has mosaics from the ninth century: an enthroned Mother of God with child, on the right the Archangel Gabriel , on the left Michael , her stained glass windows are an ingredient of the 19th century and were created during the restoration work in the years 1847–1849. In the south of the main hall there is also the Muslim prayer niche known as the mihrab , in the central nave on the right in front of the apse of the minbar  - a kind of pulpit  - and on the left the sultan's lodge from the 18th century.


Incised runic writing from the 9th century with the name Halfdan on a railing in the south gallery

On the galleries , which were reserved for women by the Byzantines and the Turks alike, there are still remnants of the old mosaic: On the north gallery the picture of Emperor Alexander (912–913), on the south gallery a mosaic with Empress Zoe and her husband Constantine IX . , next to it a mosaic of Emperor John II Comnenus with Empress Irene and her son Alexios, who give gifts to the Mother of God and her child. The most magnificent mosaic is a devotional image, a Deesis , from the 14th century, which shows Jesus with Mary and John the Baptist. The lower part with the former donor figures has been destroyed, but the faces have been preserved. On the top of the parapet are graffiti from different centuries, including one in runic script from the 9th century with the name of a Viking , Halfdan, who was believed to be part of the emperor's bodyguard .

From the gallery you have a good view of the 7.5 meter diameter wooden round shields attached to the main pillars. On them, in Arabic calligraphy, are the names of Allah , the Prophet Mohammed , the four “rightly guided” caliphs Abu Bakr , Umar , Uthman and Ali as well as the names of the two grandchildren of the Prophet Hassan and Hussein . The shields were designed by the calligraphy artist Kazasker Mustafa İzzed Effendi (1801–1877) between 1847 and 1849. At that time, the Swiss architects Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati had been commissioned by Abdülmecid I to carry out the first building-related restoration of the building . The oversized shields replaced eight rectangular panels and are probably due to a special request of the ruling Sultan Abdülmecid I. After the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a museum, many unhistorical ingredients, including the shields, were removed. However, due to protests from the imams, they were reattached.


Baptismal piscina of Hagia Sophia, probably the largest in Christendom

Hagia Sophia received four minarets very early on . The fluted minaret was built by Sultan Bayezıd II (1481-1512). In 1573, under Sultan Selim II , the two oldest minarets were torn down and replaced by successor buildings.


Numerous archaeological finds are exhibited in the courtyard, as well as a Şadirvan (mosque fountain ) and five ruler 's tombs , so-called Türben , in which sultans, princes, princesses and sultan's wives were buried: Selim II , Murad III. , Mehmed III. , Mustafa I. and İbrahim .


Classification in terms of building history

The Hagia Sophia is the most important example of a late antique domed basilica and outshone older church buildings in the eastern Mediterranean area. The domed basilica as well as the type of cross- domed church , which was built almost at the same time, are the last common Christian architectural forms that combine western and eastern church architecture. After the conquest of Constantinople, Islam also adapted the Christian domed basilica in many countries and thus continued the Byzantine legacy. The Hagia Sophia has therefore been an epoch-making building and work of art since its construction, which, due to its overall concept, has been received by architects up to the present day. Many experts focus their gaze on the free-floating, almost 56-meter-high dome with a diameter of 31 meters, which rests on only four pillars and is particularly impressive due to its flat angle of inclination. After the serious loss of structural engineering knowledge since late antiquity, the mighty Roman representative buildings became incomprehensible miracles for future generations. Only since the 20th century has it been possible to reproduce this performance with modern materials. Eugène Michel Antoniadi was one of the first to scientifically examine the building and its dome and in 1907 published a three-volume work on the Hagia Sophia. In 2000 it was included in the List of International Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks by the American Society of Civil Engineers . The Society for Geophysical Investigations in Karlsruhe has been investigating the current condition of the building ( statics and construction ) with the help of radar technology (2006) since 2002 . On the basis of the data collected here, suggestions for securing the dome in particular are to be made. Today, the Hagia Sophia is part of the UNESCO - World Heritage Site .

Sacred building

While the Orthodox Church made Hagia Sophia the basis and synonym for perfect Byzantine church construction, the interpretation of Byzantine construction schemes also took place in the case of important Catholic sacred buildings, the most important representatives of which are the Palatine Chapel of Charlemagne in Aachen and the St. Mark's Church in Venice sacred spaces. After Constantinople was captured by the Ottomans in 1453, there was the most remarkable sustained reception of art , as the conquerors were representatives of a completely different art and culture who also brought a new religion with them. In the aftermath of the Ottoman conquest, the model of the domed central building became a model for Ottoman mosque construction, such as in the Suleymaniye mosque , and replaced the rectangular pillar hall that had been the model since the Umayyad mosque .


Sacred building

Orthodox sacred buildings

The geometries and dimensions of Hagia Sophia were paraphrased in the cathedral of Saint Sava. The length of the basic square and the dimensions of the dome were derived, and the interior was structured with arcades

Hagia Eirene in Constantinople, which was also destroyed in the Nika uprising in 532, was rebuilt in parallel with Hagia Sophia and also designed as a domed basilica. After that there are only a few examples of real domed basilicas. In the Byzantine construction, the cube-shaped construction with a dome over cross-shaped vaults prevailed as a symbolic cosmos of the Christian universe, but due to the technical difficulties and high construction costs involved in erecting large domes, the dimensions in the Byzantine region largely reduce and solidify from then on 9th century in a fixed canon as a cross-domed church, which occurs in different variations.

The most ambitious building of the present, which is based on the Hagia Sophia, is the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade , construction of which began in 1935 on Vračar Hill, the presumed cremation site of the relics of Saint Sava of Serbia. It was consecrated in 2004; the work is still ongoing.

Instead of at Ground Zero in New York destroyed former Greek Orthodox St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is being built on architectural models of Byzantine architecture, particularly the Hagia Sophia, the Chora Church and the Rotunda in Thessaloniki, one of the Swiss-Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed Successor building as St. Nicholas National Shrine , the foundations of which were consecrated on October 14, 2014 at the 9/11 Memorial . Calatrava said during the inauguration of the building foundations that Hagia Sophia represents the paradigm of Orthodox architecture. Just as the Parthenon is the paradigm of classical ancient architecture for him, Hagia Sophia is also the “Parthenon of Orthodoxy” for him. The neo-Byzantine domed church of Saint Nicholas will quote the 40 windows of the dome of Hagia Sophia through 40 ribs of the dome in Saint Nicholas and the mosaics of Hagia Sophia were also an important inspiration for the design of the church by Calatravas. The highly symbolic structure is the only non-secular structure to be built on the grounds of the 9/11 Memorial in Liberty Park. The outer facade made of white American marble will be illuminated from the inside, so and its position above the "World Center Memorial Oaks" it will not only occupy a prominent visual axis, but will also be positioned as a spiritual vertical within the memorial ensemble as a place of worship for visitors of all religions . Calatravas' watercolor sketches and studies of Saint Nicholas were exhibited in the Benaki Museum in Athens in 2015. In an interview with the BBC, Calatrava explained that the idea for the design of the church came directly from the mosaic of Hagia Sophia in the donor fresco and the Mother of God on the south pore of Hagia Sophia. In a visual analogy between the model of Hagia Sophia and the enthroned Mary with Jesus, he developed the silhouette of the church.

Muslim religious buildings

In Sinan's late work, the Kılıç Ali Pasha of Istanbul draws heavily on the model of the Hagia Sophia. It is Sinan's mosque that looks most like a church.

The building served as a mosque from May 29, 1453 to 1931, then was secularized and opened as a museum on February 1, 1935.

The adaptation of authoritative Christian building forms has a long tradition in Islam. The military expansion of Islam began shortly after Muhammad's death. After the conquest of Syria in 636, the conquerors appropriated many Christian basilicas and copied their designs. The best known example is the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus . After the fall of Constantinople there was an Islamic reception of Hagia Sophia that continues to this day. With particularly imposing mosques, which were also designed as domed central buildings, Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent tried in the 16th century to tie in with the imperial sacred structures of Emperor Justinian. In Constantinople (the city ​​was not officially named Istanbul until 1930), the Beyazid II Mosque (1501–1506) was the first prototype of this new Islamic construction . Other Ottoman mosques followed, the most important of which were built in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque , which has much more of a church than a mosque , is most directly committed to Haghia Sophia . After Sinan's buildings of the Mihrimah Mosque , Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque or the Selimiye Mosque , which as prayer halls strictly embody the central concept of Ottoman religious architecture, the change in the design of the Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque is explained by the origin of the client Kılıç Ali Pascha , who was a southern Italian who converted to Islam.

The most common form of mosque today as a central dome structure ultimately goes back to Hagia Sophia, while in the first centuries of Islamic history the type of pillar-hall mosque (such as the former main mosque of Cordoba or the Umayyad mosque ) dominated, The latter was originally built as a basilica and only later converted into a mosque.

Catholic sacred buildings

Paul Tournon, Saint-Esprit, Paris 1928–1935

The Saint-Esprit church in Paris, built by Paul Tournon between 1928 and 1935, has a dome-crowned interior that was completely modeled on Hagia Sophia. With its 22 m dome diameter and the interiors by leading artists of the first half of the 20th century, the church is one of the most important sacred buildings of the period between the world wars . The dome made of prestressed concrete was a special challenge for the time.

Myths and legends

As with other well-known historical buildings, there are numerous sagas and legends about Hagia Sophia . Since the sacred building is of great importance and symbolism for both Christianity and Islam , there are many traditions on both sides . These folk tales are deeply rooted in folklore and belief and create identity .

Orthodox Christianity

A Greek legend that is told again and again today says that the patriarch, who was celebrating the Holy Liturgy when the Ottomans invaded Hagia Sophia , disappeared with all the liturgical implements in one wall of the church, or in another Variant of the legend, he fled through a side door. From there he will come back when Hagia Sophia is a church again and read the Divine Liturgy to the end. Another legend relates to the massacre of the citizens who sought refuge in Hagia Sophia when the Ottomans invaded the city. Popular belief says that only two monks survived the massacre or imprisonment. They climbed up into the gallery and disappeared into the wall from which they will return when the city is Christian again.

According to a well-known tradition, on one of the last days before the conquest, the city was covered in thick fog that did not want to clear. When the fog cleared towards evening, Hagia Sophia is said to have been enveloped in reddish light that rose from its dome to the cross. This was interpreted by the people as a sign that Christianity would shortly bathe in blood. In some variations it is said that that reddish light has disappeared above the cross. The most common interpretation is that the Holy Spirit left the basilica before it was desecrated . Scientists suspect it was an effect that can occur after a volcanic eruption .


Hagia Sophia (1852)

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans , a legend arose among the new Muslim inhabitants over the course of time , which had as its real core the problematic dome structure of Hagia Sophia caused by the earthquake. This story has been passed down orally in several variants. The central point is the attempt to link the success of the dome building to the Islamic religious founder Mohammed . It is made known to the builders - depending on the narrative variant, more or less spectacularly - that only the prophet of the Muslims, Mohammed, who lives in Arabia, can complete such a dome through miraculous power. Therefore ambassadors are sent out to visit Mohammed. Only sand or Meccan earth and water blessed by Mohammed could bring the dome to bear. In some variants, Mohammed then prophesies to his followers that he does not want to help the Christians, but sees Hagia Sophia as a future Islamic place of prayer. An Islamic legend claims that Hagia Sophia stands on a place that the Israelite King Solomon predicted in a prayer. Since Islam sees itself as the only true fulfiller of Judeo-Christian monotheism , the alleged Jewish prophecy in this legend becomes an indication for Muslims to regard the place of Hagia Sophia as intended for them.

Conversion back into an active sacred building

Orthodox Church

Hagia Sophia (2005)

The rhetoric between Moscow and Ankara has been very tense for many years. Against the background of the shooting down of a Sukhoi Su-24 of the Russian Air Force in 2015 by the Turkish army in the Syrian-Turkish border area, the already bad relations reached their lowest point so far. As a sign of goodwill or “a friendly step”, Russian Duma deputies, including Sergei Gavrilov , head of the committee on property issues and coordinator of the parliamentary group for the protection of Christian values ​​in the Duma, demand the return of Hagia Sophia to the Orthodox Church. It was built as such and had been used as a church much longer than as a mosque.

Gavrilov underlined his request with the importance of the "friendly relations" between Russia and Turkey. The opening of the new Grand Mosque in Moscow underscores Russia's respect for Islam. "In terms of friendly relations, it would be up to Turkey to take such a step by returning Hagia Sophia to the Christian Church," said Gawrilow. Russia is ready to send the “best specialists” to Istanbul “to restore this monument of world Christianity”. The Russian state is ready to make a financial contribution and hire renowned Russian architects and scientists for the restoration. “This step would help Turkey and Islam to show that goodwill takes precedence over politics,” said Gavrilov.

Even Bartholomew I , Archbishop of Istanbul, Ecumenical Patriarch, said: "If the Hagia Sophia will be opened for prayer, then they should be converted to a church again." In a map created by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2007, Hagia Sophia does not appear as a museum, but as a church. This also shows the intention of certain circles that still want to see Hagia Sophia as a church.

Selina Özuzun Doğan , who is one of the few Christian politicians for the Kemalist opposition party CHP in the Turkish parliament, found the active use of Hagia Sophia during Ramadan 2016 to be "disrespectful". The Hagia Sophia is one of the most important symbols of the country's cultural past and for this reason it is right to use it regardless of religion. "If you really wanted to restore the building to its original state, then logically you would have to use it as a church again," says Doğan. After all, Hagia Sophia was originally built as a church and was used as such for centuries. There is also a far greater lack of Christian than Muslim places of worship in the country.


Hagia Sophia during the blue hour (2013)

The conversion into a mosque has been discussed several times in Turkish history. In 2010, the right-wing national splinter party BBP asked the Turkish government to open Hagia Sophia to Muslim prayer at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan (September 8, 2010). Before the local elections in Turkey in 2014 , the Islamic conservative government demanded that Hagia Sophia be converted back into a mosque at the end of 2013 with the aim of gaining votes from devout Muslims. Hagia Sophia is the Islamic symbol of Istanbul. Some critics claim that Ataturk's signature was forged, or that the decision was made under foreign pressure. The Anadolu Gençlik Derneği , a youth organization close to the government, held a demonstrative mass prayer with thousands of participants in front of the museum at the end of May 2014.

As part of the opening ceremony of a new exhibition in Hagia Sophia on April 10, 2015, Good Friday for Orthodox Christians, an imam quoted suras from the Koran for the first time in 85 years. Members of the government also took part in the ceremony that was supposed to honor the Prophet Mohammed. Parts of the opposition saw this ceremony as a further attempt by the government to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

Historian İlber Ortaylı argued that converting it into a museum was something Turkey should be proud of in terms of respect for foreign art. He referred to the former Great Mosque of Cordoba , which in his opinion - in contrast to Hagia Sophia - had been destroyed in its structure by the installation of a Christian church and was still a cathedral. The world would not appreciate Ataturk's decision to turn it into a museum, but first and foremost, the appreciation of Turkish society was necessary.

On the occasion of the fasting month of Ramadan in the Islamic year 1437 Hagia Sophia was used in the June 2016 temporarily again as a mosque, which in Turkey and Greece to a controversy resulted. Before the local elections in 2019, President Erdoğan announced the conversion into a mosque. On May 29, 2020, the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, a clergyman recited verses from the Koran in Hagia Sophia. The Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Sahak II , proposed in June 2020 in the debate about the future status of the building that Hagia Sophia be transformed into a house of worship for Muslims and Christians.

On July 2, 2020, the State Council , Turkey's highest administrative court, announced after just a 15-minute hearing that it would deliver a verdict on the matter within 14 days. On July 10, 2020, the court ruled that the cabinet decision of 1934, with which the building was converted from a mosque into a museum, had no legal basis and was therefore void. Erdoğan announced that Hagia Sophia would be opened for Muslim prayers. The chairman of the Diyanet religious authority , Ali Erbaş , then announced the start of the work. Hope to be ready by July 24th, 2020.

Greece condemned the proposed conversion to a mosque, stating that it would "do everything it can to ensure that there are consequences for Turkey". The European Union , the United States and Russia called the decision regrettable. The Russian Orthodox Church was appalled. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev , head of the Foreign Office of the Moscow Patriarchate , spoke of a blow to Orthodoxy and said that "the spiritual and cultural heritage of a whole world should not be taken hostage of a political situation." The rededication will enhance Turkey's relationship with Christianity Influence the world, he explained, because “for all Orthodox Christians in the world, Hagia Sophia is an important symbol like St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is for Catholics”.

The Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej spoke in a statement on July 13, 2020 of a historical injustice and appealed to Turkey to maintain the status of the building. In view of the conversion that has taken place, Irinej and the President of Serbia , Aleksandar Vučić , expressed their wish on August 20, 2020 that the St. Sava Cathedral , which is expected to be inaugurated in October 2020 in the presence of Vladimir Putin , becomes a "New Hagia Sophia". Vučić said: “In a special and indirect way the Dome of St. Sava is a substitute for Hagia Sophia, it is built with Our Lady above the altar, who is practically an identical copy in the mosaic in Hagia Sopha, like His Holiness Irinej emphasized a kind of New Hagia Sophia. "

The World Council of Churches expressed "sadness and dismay" over the decision. Hagia Sophia is "a place of openness, meeting and inspiration for people of all nations and religions". So far, it has been a symbol of Turkey's "ties to secularism" and its "desire to leave the conflicts of the past behind". The World Council criticized Erdoğan for "turning this positive sign of Turkey's openness into a sign of exclusion and division". During the Sunday prayer on July 12, 2020 in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis said he was thinking of "Santa Sophia" and was "badly hit".


  • Ken Dark, Jan Kostenec: Hagia Sophia in Context: An Archaeological Re-Examination of the Cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople , Oxbow Books 2019
  • Cyril Mango : Materials for the study of the mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 8, Washington, DC 1962.
  • Heinz Kähler : The Hagia Sophia. With a contribution by Cyril Mango about the mosaics. Berlin 1967.
  • Caspare Fossati: The Hagia Sophia: based on the table from 1852. Explained and with an afterword by Urs Peschlow . Dortmund 1980, ISBN 3-88379-187-3 .
  • Rowland J. Mainstone: Hagia Sophia. Architecture, structure and liturgy of Justinian's great church. London 1988, ISBN 0-500-34098-6 .
  • Cyril Mango, Ahmet Ertuğ: Hagia Sophia. A vision for empires. Istanbul 1997.
  • Natalia B. Teteriatnikov: Mosaics of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. The Fossati restoration and the work of the Byzantine Institute. Washington DC 1998, ISBN 0-88402-264-1 .
  • Volker Hoffmann (ed.): The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Pictures from six centuries and Gaspare Fossati's restoration from 1847 to 1849. Catalog of the exhibition in the Bernisches Historisches Museum, May 12 - July 11, 1999 and in the Winckelmann Museum Stendal, July 24 - September 26, 1999. Lang, Bern 1999 , ISBN 3-906762-81-5 .
  • W. Eugene Kleinbauer: Saint Sophia at Constantinople: singulariter in mundo. Dublin, NH 1999, ISBN 0-87233-123-7 .
  • W. Eugene Kleinbauer, Anthony White, Henry Matthews: Hagia Sophia. London 2004, ISBN 1-85759-308-1 , ISBN 975-6561-53-X .
  • Alessandra Giuglia Guidobaldi, Claudia Barsanti: Santa Sofia di Costantinopoli: l'arredo marmoreo della grande chiesa giustinianea. Città del Vaticano 2004, ISBN 88-85991-36-X .
  • Robert S. Nelson: Hagia Sophia, 1850–1950: holy wisdom modern monument. Chicago 2004, ISBN 0-226-57171-8 .
  • Volker Hoffmann (Ed.): The geometric design of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Pictures of an exhibition. [15. April to May 7, 2005 Hagia Sophia Museum Istanbul, May 26 to July 3, 2005 Art Library, State Museums in Berlin]. Lang, Bern a. a. 2005, ISBN 3-03910-657-0 , ISBN 0-8204-7553-X .
  • Joseph D. Alchermes: Art and Architecture in the Age of Justinian. In: Michael Maas (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian. Cambridge 2005, pp. 343-375, especially p. 361 ff.
  • Wolfgang Christian Schneider: Carefree and in the dance of wisdom: philosophy and theology in the dome of the Hagia Sophia Justinians. In: Castrum Peregrini. 271-272, Amsterdam 2006, ISSN  0008-7556 , pp. 52-90.
  • Helge Svenshon, Rudolf HW Stichel (ed.): Insights into the virtual sky. new and old pictures of the interior of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. an exhibition of the University and State Library Darmstadt, February 19 to March 20, 2008. Catalog for the exhibition. Wasmuth, Tübingen / Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-8030-0691-2 .
  • Helge Svenshon: Heron of Alexandria and the Dome of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (PDF). In: Karl-Eugen Kurrer , Werner Lorenz , Volker Wetzk (eds.): Proceedings of the Third International Congress on Construction History. Neunplus, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-936033-31-1 , pp. 1387-1394.
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Web links

Commons : Ayasofya  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jörg Lauster 2012: Why are there churches? Rome - Jerusalem - Constantinople. In: Thomas Erne 2012 (Ed.): Church building. 23–33, Vanderoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen. ISBN 978-3-525-56852-1 , here pp. 30–31.
  2. ^ A b Slobodan Ćurčić : Architecture in the Balkans. From Diocletian to Suleyman the Magnificent. Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2010, pp. 195ff.
  3. Jörg Lauster 2012: p. 31.
  4. Christoph Duppel 2010: Engineering studies on the main dome and the main pillars of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Dissertation from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Karlsruhe (KIT). (PDF)
  5. ^ Slobodan Ćurčić: Architecture in the Balkans. P. 192.
  6. Helge Svenshon 2010: The Hagia Sophia Justinian ä- Mathematical space as a stage of the emperor. Byzantium: Splendor and Everyday Life, exhibition in the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn from February 26 to June 13, 2010 [1]
  7. ^ Georg Ostrogorsky : Byzantine History 324–1453. Unchanged reprint. CH Beck, Munich 1996, p. 49.
  8. Dragomir Acovic: 313 - ПОСЛЕДЊИ РИМСКИ ЦАР, 12. ЕПИЗОДА. rtsplaneta.rs
  9. Jelena Erdeljan: New Jerusalem in the Balcans. Translation of sacred space in the local context. In: Hierotopy - studies in the making of sacred spaces. Ed. Alexei Lidov, Moscow 2009, pp. 458–474, here p. 459 (PDF) .
  10. Lauster 2012: p. 31.
  11. Once a church and a museum - Hagia Sophia can again be used as a mosque In: Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen from 10 July 2020
  12. a b Hubertus Adam, Jochen Paul (Ed.): Highlights of world architecture. DuMont, Cologne 2001, p. 75.
  13. ^ Rudolf HW Stichel 2010: The Hagia Sophia Justinians, your liturgical institution and the ceremonial appearance of the early Byzantine emperor. In: Falko Daim, Jörg Drauschke (Hrsg.): Byzanz - The Roman Empire in the Middle Ages. RGZM monographs. 84.2.1. Mainz 2010, ISBN 978-3-88467-154-2 , pp. 25-58. Here p. 25.
  14. Rudolf HW Stichel 2010: p. 41.
  15. Rudolf HW Stichel 2010: p. 49.
  16. Alexander Demandt: History of late antiquity. Beck, Munich 2008, p. 360.
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