HAGIA SOPHIA, THE EVERLASTING GREATNESS OF BYZANTUM (HAGIA SOPHIA)

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The 1400 year old monument located in Istanbul, Turkey, is a magnificent structure of grand proportions, whose building is a proof of architectural mastery, considering that it has no steel structure and it completely functional after all these centuries of turmoil that have passed by, and is a living symbol of the greatness of the Byzantine Empire.  Another awing detail is the six-year span of the building process, compared to latter marvelous constructions, such as the Notre Dame in Paris, which, in Medieval times, needed almost a century to be finished.

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The building began during the rule of Emperor Justinian I, in the year 532 A.D. and was opened to worship on the third day of Christmas, in the year 537. Its name means “Divine Wisdom”, but it was commonly known as “Megalo Basiliko” – the Great Church.

Hagia Sophia that we know today is a greater replica build after another great cathedral had been burned in a riot against Justinian I. The prior has been built by Emperor Constantine on the same spot, and Justitian I, who survived the riot, decided to make another one, greater and more outstanding.

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The great edifice was made at tremendous cost, but it was meant to last over the ages, earthquakes, conquests and several alterations, including a transformation into an Islamic mosque (in 1453 by faith Sultan Mehmet) followed by a conversion into a museum (in 1935 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the progressive Turkish president), which is today.

The entire grandeur is topped by the central dome with a diameter of 31 meters, which stands 56 meters above ground and seems to be supported by an invisible thread coming from the very sky.

Mosaics made of gold, silver, terra cota, semi-precious stones, the polychrome green, pink, yellow and white marble, the upper windows stairs and the several strategic entrances – each dedicated to a certain social rank – prove that Hagia Sophia is one of the architectural marvels of all times. Emperor Justinian gave order that the greatest materials to be brought from all the regions of the empire, such as Anatolia, Syria, Ephessus and Egypt. It is said that Emperor Justinian I exclaimed upon the finishing of the oeuvre: “Solomon, I have outdone thee!” Modern architects say that no photography can comprise it’s grace and refinement and

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The filigree mosaic representing Jesus Christ, Holy Virgin Mary, John the Baptizer and pendentives of seraphim images have been covered in clay at one point during the Ottoman rule, but they are still is visible, despite the carefully placed layers, which is an unexplainable, if not miraculous fact.

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Besides the structure itself, there is a number of five tombs belonging to Ottoman Sultans and their family members. The Ottomans have added a madrasa (higher level school) and minarets to serve to the Islam assessment and four calligraphy panels stating Quran verses.

Currently it works as a museum, welcoming tourists from all over the world and its beauty and divine brilliance doesn’t cease to awe and fascinate the visitors.