Hagia Sophia

Uploaded 26 Jan 2010
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© Oz Hicdurmaz
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Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Ayasofya, from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom"; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia) is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and to have "changed the history of architecture." It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 A.D. on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site. (The previous two had both been destroyed by riots.) It was designed by Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician. The church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 15 m (49 foot) silver iconostasis. It was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years. It was the church in which Cardinal Humbert in 1054 marched up to the altar and excommunicated Michael I Cerularius, which is commonly considered the start of the Great Schism.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building to be converted into a mosque.The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were eventually plastered over. The Islamic features — such as the mihrab, the minbar, and the four minarets outside — were added over the course of its history under the Ottomans. It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

For almost 500 years the principal mosque of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia served as a model for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque of Istanbul), the Şehzade Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, and the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque.

Although it is sometimes referred to as Sancta Sophia, as though it were named after a saint named Sophia (sophia being the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom), the full name in Greek is Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας, Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, the church being dedicated to Jesus Christ, in Eastern Orthodox theology, the Holy Wisdom of God.

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