In this paper I will be writing about the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. It will include the beautiful location, the hardships of the building itself plus more. I will also be trying to identify the purposes from which the Hagia Sophia was created but by looking at it as a piece of art not just as a gigantic church. Then to wrap things up I will go over the architectural design and how artists use the elements and principles to create a piece of work. Istanbul is a remarkable place and actually bridges the continents of Europe and Asia.
It is located on the west side of the Bosporus strait, which is responsible for joining the Black sea and the Sea of Marmara. Istanbul, which was once the capital of Turkey is considered to be Turkey’s cultural and financial center and still retains its old world attraction and continues to generate its own individual history throughout the ages. This more than magnificent dome has been built and rebuilt multiple times. The original Hagia Sophia was built in the fourth century by Constantine the Great but nothing remains of it. The second church was built by Constantius, Constantine the Great son, and the emperor Theodosius the Great.
This was burned down in the Nika riots of 532 but fragment of this church have been found and can be seen today. The next to oversee the reconstruction of this marvelous architectural piece was Emperor Justinian I and it was between (532-537). The two architects that conceived this master piece were Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. They were both professors of geometry at the University of Constantinople. It is said that their work was a technical triumph. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture even though the structure was damaged pretty bad several times due to earthquakes.
Hagia Sophia means The Church of the Holy Wisdom in Greek. This was the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople for over 900 year. This also was a principal setting for church councils and imperial ceremonies. This amazing church remained a functioning church all the way up until May 29, 1453. This is when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered into the city of Constantinople and he was so amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia that he immediately converted it into his imperial mosque. For almost 500 years it has served as the principal mosque of Istanbul.
Now the Hagia Sophia is a museum and is acknowledged as one of the greatest buildings of the world. What was the purpose the Hagia Sophia was built? I think most would say its purpose was to be the center of Orthodox Christianity but also to cement the legacy of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. This is correct but as a piece of art its purpose goes much deeper. By a piece of art I mean in aspects like its creativity, communicating information, worship, day-to-day living, and more. The Hagia Sophia is nothing but creative. Justinian wanted to create a one of a kind master piece.
He had materials shipped in from all over the world. Green marble from Thessaly was brought over as well as yellow stone from Syria. This astonishing church has the layout of a congregational basilica and that of a vaulted superstructure. By using screen walls between the nave and the aisles and gallery Anthemios and Isidoros, architects, were able to maintain flow toward the sanctuary. Past the immediate usable space of the floor the church wamps (like boom there it is) into a glorious system of vaults of tremendous height. There are four broad arches that rest beneath the central dome.
This dome is all brick and floats some 165 feet above the floor. The creativity of this almost unexplainable piece of art goes on for days but what I like the most is the all the round- headed/ arch windows. There is forty of these following each other around the bottom of the central dome which creates the base and more of them throughout the whole structure. The best part about them is the way the light shines through and between them and lights up the church. I cannot even imagine how beautiful and amazing this looks in person.
As a piece of art another purpose of the Hagia Sophia was to communicate information and worship. When contemplating on whether or not to crown the Hagia Sophia with a dome it was related to the sanctity of the whole building as an earthly analogue to heaven. That itself to me communicates some kind of message of how great this church was meant to be. Justinian created this church of size, light, and space for everyone. Clergies were held in here as well as liturgy of the Eucharist. Christians were the first to use the Hagia Sophia as a church.
They believed that the people were the architecture and when you came to pray they understand that it is not by any human power or skill, but by the influence of God. Next Sultan Mehmed came through and converted it into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia is also an art for day-to-day living as well as visual delight and this could be another reason of purpose. I guess this could relate to the last paragraph on how people could/would go in and worship/pray in this one of a kind church. Also between these two aspects I believe it is how people as the individual see and use this and also as a group or society, even if they are generations apart.
For example if I, an individual, could go back in time to when the Hagia Sophia was first built and was admiring this spectacular church from the outside or inside with someone, an individual from that time, or vice versa, I believe we would both be amazed. But then again we would both have different aspects that we enjoyed or possibly worshiped than each other. I believe it works the same way with certain ethnic groups and certain societal backgrounds. In a way I believe this is a serious purpose of this magnificent building.