Architecture of Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia is now an imposing structure with a diameter of 31-33 meters and goes up to a height of 54 meters. Its looks have constantly been changed through the ages. The Hagia Sophia began its journey as a blink-and-you-miss wooden roofed structure. Under Emperor Justinian's rule, the Hagia Sophia was rebuilt to all its glory and splendor, as architects Anthemius and Isidorus wove their magic on the massive structure.

The church was converted from a traditional rectangular format to a square one. The chief architects then crowned the building with a massive dome, crafted entirely out of hollowed bricks, made from lightweight clay imported from Rhodes. There are innumerable windows at the base of the dome through which light streams in and floods the interiors. .

The interiors of the Church glistened and glittered with fragile golden mosaic tiles illustrating Christian figurines and scenes. The church's architectural style showed a confluence of the Roman and the Byzantine building modes.

When under the orders of Sultan Mehmet, the church was converted into a mosque, the original church makeup underwent radical and some permanent transformations.

On the exterior, minarets and buttresses forever changed the look of the church, while on the inside, in accordance with the Islam religion, all figurines were either ripped off or covered up. Huge plates, called lehvas emblazoned with calligraphy were also installed.

As this spirit of fanatic iconoclasm waned, new mosaic tiles were installed in the Hagia Sophia. Now there are about 30 million of such ornate mosaic tiles inside the building.

Religious and regal matters were depicted in these mosaics. For instance, one mosaic shows Virgin Mary in the royal company of emperors Justinian and Constantine. In still another one, Jesus Christ is sited on a throne and a king is kneeling before him. There is an exquisite gold mosaic tile showing Madonna and Child.

Portraits too have been painted on the mosaics, the subjects being the members of the royal family. Efforts are now underway to restore the mosaic tiles to their former radiance. The Hagia Sophia grounds are dotted with tombs, a fountain and manicured gardens. Breathtaking as its interiors are, you will be greeted with still more beauty and grandeur if you look outside.

The changing looks of the Hagia Sophia bear testimony to the changes in the Turkish political arena.
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