Apr 25




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.



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.



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



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.



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.

Jul 11

St. Sophia Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Sofia)

St. Sophia Cathedral is one of the most impressive cathedrals in Kiev. Tourists from all over the world who come to Kiev do not miss their chance to visit the most renowned landmarks of the city. There is a fee which has to be covered when entering the cathedral, but it is all worth it. The architectural design is outstanding.

The cathedral is actually the first edifice of its kind on the Ukrainian territory to have been included in the World Heritage List. This goes to prove just how valuable this construction is.

In addition to the main building which is actually the cathedral under discussion, there are other constructions which are a part of the monastic ensemble (the bell tower, the House of Metropolitan, etc.). The cathedral has been administered by the Ministry of Regional Development up until 2010, but afterwards, it came under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture.



The explanation is more of a practical nature. The fact is that UNESCO World Heritage Program considers both this cathedral and the Monastery of the Caves (also located in Kiev) as being part of a sole ensemble. But the edifices were under different jurisdictions. So the contradiction had to be resolved in a way, and the obvious solution was to have them both be administered by the same Ministry.

St. Sophia’s Cathedral has been erected in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise. The construction consists of 5 apses, 5 naves and 13 cupolas, and while the exterior decorations are no longer noticeable, tourists still have the possibility to gaze on beautiful frescos and mosaic works which have been wonderfully preserved at the interior of the cathedral since the 11th century.



By 1240, the cathedral was in a bad condition, but renovations were by no means initiated. Thus for 4 centuries, the construction was left to chance. It was not until 1633 that restoration work on the cathedral began. The architect behind the project was Octaviano Mancini, of Italian origin, who preserved the interior of the church unchanged, but added a new architectural design on the exterior – elements representative for the Baroque style.

The cathedral was finally restored to the fullest in the 18th century (1740). In the years to come, the complex was extended to comprise the Bell Tower (1744-1752). But while the building work occurred in the specified timeframe, additional elements were added much later. The golden cupola was actually added in mid-19th century (1852).



The Dining Hall which dates from the 18th century was later on changed to host a museum. At present, exhibitions found here present various models of the city prior to the Mongol invasion (which occurred in 1240), as well as from the 10th up until the 12th century.

The name of the cathedral is given after the edifice which was actually used as inspiration for the construction: the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, located in Constantinople. The name conveyed does not make reference to a specific saint. Hagia Sophia translates into ‘holy wisdom’ and this is the connotation of the name.

In terms of structure, the cathedral is encompassed by galleries on three sides, and the exterior reaches 37 to 55 m.



Initially, the cathedral had quite a different purpose: the rulers of Kiev used it as their burial place. While the catacombs of the majority of them did not survive the passage of time, there is one tomb still standing: that of the founder of the cathedral, Yaroslav the Wise.

The cathedral, as well as the adjacent buildings, has been used for various ceremonies and official events. The wonderful architecture and the historical weight it carries make the St. Sophia Cathedral a must-see touristic attraction.