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The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern

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The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Saray) is a subterranean wonder and one of the greatest – and certainly the biggest – of Istanbul’s surviving Byzantine sites. With its imposing columns, grand scale and mysterious ambience, this subterranean site seems like a flooded palace, but it is in fact a former water storage chamber.

This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.

History of The Basilica Cistern

Built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in around 532AD, the Basilica Cistern measures approximately 453 feet by 212 feet. It would have stored around 80,000 cubic metres of water at a time to supply the palace as well as the city of Byzantium. At the time, it was located underneath the square known as the Stoa Basilica, upon which a great Basilica stood, hence its name.

The Basilica was reconstructed by Illus after a fire in 476 AD, and would have originally contained gardens, was surrounded by a colonnade, and faced the Hagia Sophia, a Late Antique place of worship in Istanbul.

The cistern provided water for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill, and carried on providing water for the Tokapi Palace after the Ottoman Conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

It has undergone lots of repair. These happened twice during the Ottoman State in the 18th century during the reign of Ahmed III, and then during the 19th century by Sultan Abdulhamid II.

Historical texts claim that around 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern.

The Basilica Cistern Today

The Basilica Cistern was opened to the public in 1987. Today, visitors can explore the Basilica Cistern, treading its raised platforms to view its 336 engraved marble columns, enjoy its vaulted ceilings, and experience its eerie nature complete with dripping water and fish.

It is cathedral-sized, with most of the columns in the building appearing to have been recycled from the ruins of older buildings which were likely brought to Constantinople from various parts of the empire.

Amongst the highlights at the Basilica Cistern are two mysterious columns depicting the head of the mythological figure Medusa.

Historical artefacts discovered at the site are also on display and are well-captioned, and there are regular artistic exhibitions which take place on site.

Getting to The Basilica Cistern

From the centre of Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern takes a minute by car via Yerebatan Cd. It is a one minute walk via the same route. There is also an extensive public transport network which departs regularly from around Istanbul.

Basilica Cistern in Istanbul History & Tips for visitors

Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is a palace-like construction found underground. It was built in 532 and well forgotten until 1545.

Originally organized as an outdoor public space, the Romans referred to the location as the Basilica.  The name came to life when Byzantine Emperor Justinian I rearranged the territory into an underground cistern. It provided water to the Great Palace of Constantinople where the Emperor lived.

Inside Basilica Cistern

Location: Yerebatan Cad. Alemdar Mah. ⅓, Sultanahmet-Fatih,  Istanbul, Turkey

The cistern is located in Istanbul Sultanahmet square.  It is 150 meters away from the Hagia Sophia museum.  Look for the sign and a small door for entrance.  Remember that this is an underground museum, there are no giveaways of the construction outside.

Price: 20 Turkish Liras.   This museum is not included in the Museum Card pass.   Only cash in Turkish Liras is accepted.

Hours: Open every day  09:00 - 17:30.   On the first day of religious holidays  and  January 1st the museum opens at 13:00.

Yerebatan Sarayi is another name of the cistern in Istanbul. ਏrom Turkish it means “Sunken Palace”. ꂯter the royal family moved to its new residence in the Palace of Blachernae, the cistern under the city was no longer used and forgotten.  It was waiting to be found again 1500 years later by a curious Frenchman.

History of Basilica Cistern

In the 300s the first out of seven hills of Constantinople (now Istanbul) had the Basilica built on it.  This was an area with shops, entertainment facilities and other useful spots for citizens.  Historically the area had beautiful gardens there.  

In 532 the most destructive riot took place in Constantinople.  It started with a city crowd demanding freedom of prisoners arrested for disturbance.  The riot progressed to massive fires set in the city.  It is known as the Nika riots, from Greek meaning “conquer” - a cheer used to give support to the rioters.  Most of the city was destroyed, including the Basilica, thousands of people were killed.

In the same year 532 the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I decided to rearrange the damaged public space into a cistern.  The royal residence, the Great Palace of Constantinople, needed clean water supply. The਎mperor chose the old Basilica to make the underground cistern.  It provided clean water to the palace and the surrounding buildings until the Emperors and Sultans to follow changed residencies 500 year later.  

There was no need for the cistern anymore after the relocation of Sultans.  Yerebatan ("Sunken” from Turkish) was the name given to that underground water cistern and is used today.    

Design and architecture

Column at the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

This is a well planned 140 meters by 70 meters long rectangular space underground.  In feet the measurements are about 460 feet by 230 feet. The space is large enough to line up three average size passenger airplanes.  

Take the 52 steps leading down the construction to find this mysterious space.  The stone staircase leads you underground, to the Yerebatan (“sunken” from Turkish”).

Basilica Cistern in Istanbul has 336 marble columns.  They are all performed in classical style of Greek and Roman times.  Most of the columns have cylindrical form. Only a few have square or grooved shape.  

The decorations of the columns are unique.  Their top parts are widened. They are decorated either with egg-and-dart motive (the Ionic order) or Mediterranean leave ornament (the Corinthian order). ਊ few marble columns are straight with no enlargement at the top (the Doric order).  

Each column is 9 meters high, spread at a distance of 4.8 meters from each other.  To support the ceiling evenly the huge area is designed into 12 rows. 򠺬h row has 28 marble columns in it.  The ceiling and the columns are attached through the means of arches.

Marbles used in the cistern are of various origin. It is believed that not all the columns were new.  Many blocks came from ruined buildings from different parts of the Empire.  The structure of the columns consists of two parts.  The major part of the column consists of a one-piece marble block.  The smaller part has two pieces of marble blocks.


This is a 9800 square meters of wonder.

The walls of the Yerebatan are 4.8 meters thick.  They are covered with heat resistant ceramic bricks.  Same bricks were used to cover the floor of the cistern.  Uneven spaces between the bricks were filled with Khorasan Mortar, a special paste found in the eastern part of Anatolia.

Such thorough construction protects the cistern from underground waters and fire.

The cistern can hold as much as 100,000 tons of water. ਎nough to supply water to over 2.5 million people every day.  The Belgrade Forest in Istanbul provided the water for the cistern.  Justinian I built a 200 meter-long aqueduct to make it possible for the water to travel from the Belgrade Forest to the Basilica cistern.  You can enjoy the little fish which swims in the waters today.

Legendary history

French scientist and topographer Petrus Gyllius came to Constantinople in 1544.  The King Francis I of France sent him to research ancient oriental manuscripts. ਊs Gylius wandered around the area of current Istanbul Sultanahmet, he heard an interesting story.  Local residents claimed they brought water from  the ground floor of their own buildings.  There was a hole in an underground story where the water was found.  Some quick tenants even caught fish there.

As a topographer Gyllius had to research deep into the stories.  The Frenchman went into a courtyard surrounded by wooden walls.  He only had a torch in his hand for tools.  He went down the stone steps and discovered an underground marvel.

To fulfill his mission Gyllius moved around the cistern by rowboat.  He studied the area, took its measurements and identified the columns.  He put his findings in his book De Topographia Constantinopoleos et de illius antiquitatibus.  

This is how the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul came back to existence in �.

Medusa head at Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

Medusa head at Basilica Cistern

Walk all the way to the far northwest corner of the cistern.  You can see two very different bases of two columns.  These are Medusa heads.  The hideous woman creature with snakes for hair from Greek mythology.  No one knows where and why these symbolic stones came from.  Some historians guess that the stones simply were the right size to serve as base for cistern’s columns.   

Medusa head is turned sideways in the cistern.  There are several legends of why it is placed like that.  Some researchers say there is a symbolic meaning of power and protection.  The Medusa protects this important building from the bad eye and bad luck.  Other historians believe that Medusa looked away and turned itself into a stone.          


The Basilica Cistern was made available to public as late as in 1987.  Platforms with rails were built for visitors to be able to walk through the cistern.  There were several restorations that took place in the cistern since its foundation. ਏirst one carried out in 1723 during Ottoman times and last one in 1994 in times of Turkish Republic.   

Dimensions and Features

The Basilica Cistern has an underground chamber that is nearly 108,000 square feet. It is able to hold one hundred thousand tons of water. Today, it only has a few feet of water that lines the bottom area.

Its ceiling is held up by more than three hundred marble columns which are almost 30 feet high. The columns’ capitals mostly have Corinthian and Ionic styles, except for a couple that have a Doric style. Most of the cistern’s columns may have originally been used in other buildings that had been ruined. The columns are engraved and were carved from different kinds of granite and marble.

History Of Basilica Cistern

The Basilica was a church in Rome. The Cistern, also known as the Cisterna Basilica, is the oldest of several hundred ancient cisterns underneath Istanbul, Turkey. The cistern was founded in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and is situated 150 meters (490 feet) southwest of Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu. It is now held with only a limited amount of water for public access inside the room. When you visit Istanbul, check the Basilica Cistern, having an important place among historical places in Istanbul.

The Basilica Cistern, situated southwest of Hagia Sofia, is one of the most majestic tourist spots in Istanbul. This large underground water reservoir was constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), and is known to the public as the "Yerebatan Cistern'' because of the underground marble columns. It's also known as Basilica Cistern because it used to be a basilica on the site of the cistern.

Construction of The Basilica Cistern

The cistern is 140 meters long and 70 meters tall, and it is a massive structure that occupies a rectangular space. The Cistern, which can be reached through a 52-step staircase, is home to 336 9-meter-high columns. The columns are made up of 12 rows, each of 28 columns, and are spaced at 4.80 m intervals. The columns transport the cistern's case-bay across arches. The majority of the columns are made up of a single part, with one of them being made up of two parts. The majority of the columns are thought to have been compiled from ancient spots in Istanbul and sculpted out of different types of marbles. Sections of the heads of these columns have various designs. 98 of them are in the Corinthian style, while the rest are in the Dorian style. The cistern's walls are 4.80 meters high, and the floor is bricked and plastered with a dense coat of brick dust mortar for water resistance. The cistern has a gross area of 9,800 sqm and a water storage capacity of 100,000 tons.

The basilica was said to have gardens, which were enclosed by a colonnade and faced the Hagia Sophia, according to ancient texts. Emperor Constantine constructed a building that was later reconstructed and expanded by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532, which then destroyed the region.

According to historical accounts, 7,000 slaves were used in the building of the cistern. The expanded cistern acted as a water filtration facility for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other First Hill houses, and it continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

The bases of two columns in the northwest corner of the cistern reuse blocks etched with Medusa's face. The origins of the two heads are uncertain, but they are believed to have been carried to the cistern after being removed from a late Roman structure. There is no written evidence that they were historically used as column pedestals. The blocks are said to be oriented sideways and inverted to negate the Gorgons' force of gaze however, it is generally assumed that one was oriented sideways only to be the right size to carry the column. Since the upside-down Medusa will be the same height right-side up as the normal Medusa, she was put that way.

During your Istanbul travel, experience the mesmerizing beauty among many historical spots in Istanbul. the Basilica Cistern will take your Istanbul sightseeing to the next level.


"One of the most magnificent historical structures of Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern located southwest of. ” , read the first line of the pamphlet given to the tourists at the entrance. I wasn't in the mood for a history lesson with long, dreary details, so I decided to explore the cistern myself.

To give you a basic rundown of this place I have decided to describe some of the most majestic features. Starting with, what is a cistern? A cistern is a waterproof receptacle used for storing rainwater. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey. What makes this cistern so impressive is the architectural intelligence required to build it. There are 336 columns with a height of 9 meters each. The columns compose 12 rows with 28 columns in each row, standing at a constant distance of 4.80 meters from each other. And although that information may sound . very lackluster, looking around me I could see how perfectly the spacing had been dealt with. This cistern was built in the 6th century and Iɽ say that's quite impressive to achieve such meticulous designing at that point in history.

For me, the most captivating part of the cistern was the inverted head of Medusa set on one of the columns in the southwest part of the cistern. According to myths, Medusa is one of the three Gorgons, the female monsters of the underground. Medusa can turn people into stone by looking at them. The most famous story suggests that Medusa was in love with Perseus. Meanwhile, Athena was also in love with him and turned Medusa's hair into snakes.

Perseus cut off Medusa's head and used it to defeat his enemies. Stemming from this myth, Byzantines placed Medusas' head upside down so that people who looked at her wouldn't be turned to stone.

Did you know the infamous book 'Inferno' by Dan Brown was set in this very place? In the story, Dr. Robert Langdon along with the FBI rushed to the virus-containing Medusa head which meant to render a portion of the worlds' population infertile.

I was left speechless after seeing this marvelous edifice built with such perfection. I was in awe of the people that planned and built this architectural wonder.


Church of Constantius II Edit

The first church on the site was known as the Magna Ecclesia ( Μεγάλη Ἐκκλησία , Megálē Ekklēsíā, 'Great Church') [33] [34] because of its size compared to the sizes of the contemporary churches in the city. [11] According to the Chronicon Paschale, the church was consecrated on 15 February 360, during the reign of the emperor Constantius II ( r . 337–361 ) by the Arian bishop Eudoxius of Antioch. [35] [36] It was built next to the area where the Great Palace was being developed. According to the 5th-century ecclesiastical historian Socrates of Constantinople, the emperor Constantius had around 346 "constructed the Great Church alongside that called Irene which because it was too small, the emperor's father [Constantine] had enlarged and beautified". [37] [35] A tradition which is not older than the 7th or 8th century reports that the edifice was built by Constantius' father, Constantine the Great ( r . 306–337 ). [35] Hesychius of Miletus wrote that Constantine built Hagia Sophia with a wooden roof and removed 427 (mostly pagan) statues from the site. [38] The 12th-century chronicler Joannes Zonaras reconciles the two opinions, writing that Constantius had repaired the edifice consecrated by Eusebius of Nicomedia, after it had collapsed. [35] Since Eusebius was the bishop of Constantinople from 339 to 341, and Constantine died in 337, it seems that the first church was erected by Constantius. [35]

The nearby Hagia Irene ("Holy Peace") church was completed earlier and served as cathedral until the Great Church was completed. Besides Hagia Irene, there is no record of major churches in the city-centre before the late 4th century. [36] Rowland Mainstone argued the 4th-century church was not yet known as Hagia Sophia. [39] Though its name as the 'Great Church' implies that it was larger than other Constantinopolitan churches, the only other major churches of the 4th century were the Church of St Mocius, which lay outside the Constantinian walls and was perhaps attached to a cemetery, and the Church of the Holy Apostles. [36]

The church itself is known to have had a timber roof, curtains, columns, and an entrance that faced west. [36] It likely had a narthex and is described as being shaped like a Roman circus. [40] This may mean that it had a U-shaped plan like the basilicas of San Marcellino e Pietro and Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome. [36] However, it may also have been a more conventional three-, four-, or five-aisled basilica, perhaps resembling the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem or the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. [36] The building was likely preceded by an atrium, as in the later churches on the site. [ citation needed ]

According to Ken Dark and Jan Kostenec, a further remnant of the 4th century basilica may exist in a wall of alternating brick and stone banded masonry immediately to the west of the Justinianic church. [41] The top part of the wall is constructed with bricks stamped with brick-stamps dating from the 5th century, but the lower part is of constructed with bricks typical of the 4th century. [41] This wall was probably part of the propylaeum at the west front of both the Constantinian and Theodosian Great Churches. [41]

The building was accompanied by a baptistery and a skeuophylakion. [36] A hypogeum, perhaps with an martyrium above it, was discovered before 1946, and the remnants of a brick wall with traces of marble revetment were identified in 2004. [41] The hypogeum was a tomb which may have been part of the 4th-century church or may have been from the pre-Constantinian city of Byzantium. [41] The skeuophylakion is said by Palladius to have had a circular floor plan, and since some U-shaped basilicas in Rome were funerary churches with attached circular mausolea (the Mausoleum of Constantina and the Mausoleum of Helena), it is possible it originally had a funerary function, though by 405 its use had changed. [41] A later account credited a woman called Anna with donating the land on which the church was built in return for the right to be buried there. [41]

Excavations on the western side of the site of the first church under the propylaeum wall reveal that the first church was built atop a road about 8 metres (26 ft) wide. [41] According to early accounts, the first Hagia Sophia was built on the site of an ancient pagan temple, [42] [43] [44] although there are no artefacts to confirm this. [45]

The Patriarch of Constantinople John Chrysostom came into a conflict with Empress Aelia Eudoxia, wife of the emperor Arcadius ( r . 383–408 ), and was sent into exile on 20 June 404. During the subsequent riots, this first church was largely burnt down. [35] Palladius noted that the 4th-century skeuophylakion survived the fire. [46] According to Dark and Kostenec, the fire may only have affected the main basilica, leaving the surrounding ancillary buildings intact. [46]

Church of Theodosius II Edit

A second church on the site was ordered by Theodosius II ( r . 402–450 ), who inaugurated it on 10 October 415. [ citation needed ] The Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae describes the Hagia Sophia as the Magna Ecclesia, 'Great Church', while the former cathedral Hagia Irene is named the Ecclesia Antiqua, 'Old Church'. At the time of Socrates of Constantinople around 440, "both churches are enclosed by a single wall and served by the same clergy". [37] The complex would thus have encompassed a large area including the site of the later Hospital of Samson. [46] If the fire of 404 destroyed only the 4th-century main basilica church, then the 5th century Theodosian basilica could have been built surrounded by a mainly 4th-century complex. [46]

During the reign of Theodosius II, the emperor's elder sister, the augusta Pulcheria ( r . 414–453 ) came into conflict with the patriarch Nestorius ( r . 10 April 428 – 22 June 431 ). [47] [48] The patriarch denied the augusta access to the sanctuary of the "Great Church", probably on the 15 April 428. [48] According to the anonymous Letter to Cosmas, the virgin empress, a promoter of the cult of the Virgin Mary and having habitually taken the Eucharist in the sanctuary under Nestorius's predecessors, claimed right of entry because of her equivalent position to the Theotokos – the Virgin Mary – "having given birth to God". [49] [48] Their theological differences were part of the controversy over the title theotokos that resulted in the Council of Ephesus and the stimulation of Monophysitism and Nestorianism, which like Nestorius objected to the title. [47] Pulcheria, in common with Pope Celestine I and Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria, worked to overthrow Nestorius, condemn him at the ecumenical council, and exile him. [49] [47]

The area of the western entrance to the Justinianic Hagia Sophia revealed the western remains of its Theodosian predecessor, as well as some fragments of the Constantinian church. [46] German archaeologist Alfons Maria Schneider began conducting archaeological excavations during the mid-1930s, publishing his final report in 1941. [46] Excavations in the area that had once been the 6th-century atrium of the Justinianic church revealed the monumental western entrance and atrium, along with columns and sculptural fragments from both 4th- and 5th-century churches. [46] Further digging was abandoned for fear of impinging on the integrity of the Justinianic building, but parts of the excavation trenches remain uncovered, laying bare the foundations of the Theodosian building.

The basilica was built by architect Rufinus. [ citation needed ] The church's main entrance faced west, perhaps with gilded doors, and with an additional entrance to the east. [50] There was a central pulpit, and probably there was an upper gallery, possibly employed as a matroneum (women's section). [50] The exterior was decorated with elaborate carvings with rich Theodosian-era designs, of which fragments survive, while the floor just inside the portico was embellished with polychrome mosaics. [46] The surviving carved gable end from the centre of the western façade is decorated with a cross-roundel. [46] Fragments of a frieze of reliefs with 12 lambs representing the 12 apostles also remain unlike Justinian's 6th-century church the Theodosian Hagia Sophia had both colourful floor mosaics and external decorative sculpture. [46]

At the western end, surviving stone fragments of the show there was vaulting, at least at the western end. [46] The Theodosian building had a monumental propylaeum hall with a portico, which may account for this vaulting, which was thought by the original excavators in the 1930s to be part of the western entrance of the church itself. [46] The propylaeum opened onto an atrium which lay in front of the basilica church itself. Preceding the propylaeum was a steep monumental staircase following the contours of the ground as it sloped away westwards in the direction of the Strategion, the Basilica, and the harbours of the Golden Horn. [46] This arrangement would have recalled the steps outside the atrium of the Constantinian Old St Peter's Basilica in Rome. [46] Nearby was a cistern, perhaps to supply a fountain in the atrium or for worshippers to wash with before entering. [46]

The 4th-century skeuophylakion was replaced in the 5th century by the present-day structure, a rotunda constructed of banded masonry in the lower two levels and of plain brick masonry in the third. [46] Originally this rotunda, probably employed as a treasury for liturgical objects, had a second-storey internal gallery accessed by an external spiral staircase and two levels of niches for storage. [46] A further row, of windows with marble window frames on the third level remain bricked up. [46] The gallery was supported on monumental consoles with carved acanthus designs, similar to those used on the late 5th-century Column of Leo. [46] A large lintel of the skeuophylakion's western entrance – bricked up in the Ottoman era – was discovered inside the rotunda when it was archaeologically cleared to its foundations in 1979, during which time the brickwork was also repointed. [46] The skeuophylakion was again restored in 2014 by the Vakıflar. [46]

A fire started during the tumult of the Nika Revolt, which had begun nearby in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, and the second Hagia Sophia was burnt to the ground on 13–14 January 532. The court historian Procopius wrote: [51]

And by way of shewing that it was not against the Emperor alone that they [the rioters] had taken up arms, but no less against God himself, unholy wretches that they were, they had the hardihood to fire the Church of the Christians, which the people of Byzantium call "Sophia", an epithet which they have most appropriately invented for God, by which they call His temple and God permitted them to accomplish this impiety, foreseeing into what an object of beauty this shrine was destined to be transformed. So the whole church at that time lay a charred mass of ruins.

Column and capital with a Greek cross

Columns and other fragments

Theodosian capital for a pilaster, one of the few remains of the church of Theodosius II

Church of Justinian I (current structure) Edit

On 23 February 532, only a few weeks after the destruction of the second basilica, Emperor Justinian I decided to build a third and entirely different basilica, larger and more majestic than its predecessors. It was designed by Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus.

Construction of the church began in 532 during the short term of Phocas as praetorian prefect. [52] Phocas replaced John the Cappadocian after the Nika Riots saw the destruction of the Theodosian church, although he had previously been arrested in 529 on suspicion of paganism. [52] According to John the Lydian, Phocas was responsible for funding the initial construction of the building with 4,000 Roman pounds of gold, although he was dismissed from office in October 532. [53] [52] John the Lydian, writing in the 550s, was careful to say Phocas had acquired the funds by moral means Evagrius Scholasticus later wrote that he had obtained the money unjustly. [54] [52]

According to Anthony Kaldellis, both of Hagia Sophia's architects named by Procopius were associated with to the school of the pagan philosopher Ammonius of Alexandria. [52] It is possible that both they and John the Lydian envisaged Hagia Sophia as a great temple of the supreme Neoplantonist deity whose visible manifestation was light and the sun. John the Lydian describes the church as the "temenos of the Great God" (Greek: τὸ τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ Τέμενος , romanized: tò toû meglou theoû Témenos). [53] [52]

Originally the exterior was covered with marble veneer, as indicated by remaining pieces of marble and surviving attachments for lost panels on the building's western face. [55] The white marble cladding of much of the church, together with gilding of some parts, would have given Hagia Sophia a shimmering appearance quite different from the brick- and plaster-work of the modern period, and would greatly have increased its visibility from the sea. [55] The cathedral's interior surfaces were sheathed with polychrome marbles, green and white with purple porphyry, and gold mosaics. The exterior was clad in stucco tinted yellow and red during restorations in the 19th century at the direction of the Fossati architects. [ citation needed ]

Justinian chose geometer and engineer Isidore of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles as architects. The construction is described by Procopius's On Buildings (Greek: Περὶ κτισμάτων , romanized: Peri ktismatōn, Latin: De aedificiis). [51] Columns and other marbles were brought from all over the empire, throughout the Mediterranean. The idea of these columns being spoils from cities such as Rome and Ephesus is a later invention. [56] Even though they were made specifically for Hagia Sophia, the columns show variations in size. [57] More than ten thousand people were employed. This new church was contemporaneously recognized as a major work of architecture. Outside the church was an elaborate array of monuments around the bronze-plated Column of Justinian, topped by an equestrian statue of the emperor which dominated the Augustaeum, the open square outside the church which connected it with the Great Palace complex through the Chalke Gate. At the edge of the Augustaeum was the Milion and the Regia, the first stretch of Constantinople's main thoroughfare, the Mese. Also facing the Augustaeum were the enormous Constantinian thermae, the Baths of Zeuxippus, and the Justinianic civic basilica under which was the vast cistern known as the Basilica Cistern. On the opposite side of Hagia Sophia was the former cathedral, Hagia Irene.

Referring to the destruction of the Theodosian Hagia Sophia and comparing the new church with the old, Procopius lauded the Justinianic building, writing in De aedificiis: [51]

. the Emperor Justinian built not long afterwards a church so finely shaped, that if anyone had enquired of the Christians before the burning if it would be their wish that the church should be destroyed and one like this should take its place, shewing them some sort of model of the building we now see, it seems to me that they would have prayed that they might see their church destroyed forthwith, in order that the building might be converted into its present form.

When first seeing the finished building the Emperor is alleged to have said: "Salomon, I have surpassed thee" [58]

Justinian and Patriarch Menas inaugurated the new basilica on 27 December 537 – 5 years and 10 months after construction started – with much pomp. [59] [60] [61] Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a principal setting for Byzantine imperial ceremonies, such as coronations. Like other churches throughout Christendom, the basilica offered sanctuary from persecution to outlaws. [ citation needed ]

Earthquakes in August 553 and on 14 December 557 caused cracks in the main dome and eastern semi-dome. According to the Chronicle of John Malalas, during a subsequent earthquake on 7 May 558, [62] the eastern semi-dome fell down, destroying the ambon, altar, and ciborium. The collapse was due mainly to the unfeasibly high bearing load and to the enormous shear load of the dome, which was too flat. [59] These caused the deformation of the piers which sustained the dome. [59] Justinian ordered an immediate restoration. He entrusted it to Isidorus the Younger, nephew of Isidore of Miletus, who used lighter materials. The entire vault had to be taken down and rebuilt 20 Byzantine feet (6.25 meters or 20.5 feet) higher than before, giving the building its current interior height of 55.6 meters (182 ft). [63] Moreover, Isidorus changed the dome type, erecting a ribbed dome with pendentives whose diameter was between 32.7 and 33.5 m. [59] Under Justinian's orders, eight Corinthian columns were disassembled from Baalbek, Lebanon, and shipped to Constantinople around 560. [64] This reconstruction, giving the church its present 6th-century form, was completed in 562. The poet Paul the Silentiary composed a long Greek poem, an ekphrasis, for the re-dedication of the basilica presided over by Patriarch Eutychius on 23 December 562. Paul the Silentiary's poem is conventionally known under the Latin title Descriptio Sanctae Sophiae, and he was also author of another ekphrasis on the ambon of the church, the Descripto Ambonis. [65] [66] The mosaics were completed in the reign of Emperor Justin II ( r . 565–578 ), Justinian I's successor. [ citation needed ]

According to the history of the patriarch Nicephorus I and the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, various liturgical vessels of the cathedral were melted down on the order of the emperor Heraclius ( r . 610–641 ) after the capture of Alexandria and Roman Egypt by the Sasanian Empire during the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628. [67] Theophanes states that these were made into gold and silver coins, and a tribute was paid to the Avars. [67] The Avars attacked the extramural areas of Constantinople in 623, causing the Byzantines to move the "garment" relic (Greek: ἐσθής , translit. esthḗs) of Mary, mother of Jesus to Hagia Sophia from its usual shrine of the Church of the Theotokos at Blachernae just outside the Theodosian Walls. [68] On 14 May 626, the Scholae Palatinae, an elite body of soldiers, protested in Hagia Sophia against a planned increase in bread prices, after a stoppage of the Cura Annonae rations resulting from the loss of the grain supply from Egypt. [69] The Persians under Shahrbaraz and the Avars together laid the Siege of Constantinople in 626 according to the Chronicon Paschale, on 2 August 626 Theodore Syncellus, a deacon and presbyter of Hagia Sophia, was among those who negotiated unsuccessfully with the khagan of the Avars. [70] A homily attributed by existing manuscripts to Theodore Syncellus, possibly delivered on the anniversary of the event, describes the translation of the Virgin's garment and its ceremonial re-translation to Blachernae by the patriarch Sergius I after the threat had passed. [70] [71] Another eyewitness to write an account of the Avar–Persian siege was George of Pisidia, a deacon of Hagia Sophia and an administrative official in for the patriarchate from Antioch in Pisidia. [70] Both George and Theodore, probably belonged to Sergius's literary circle, attribute the defeat of the Avars to the intervention of the Theotokos, a belief that strengthened in following centuries. [70]

In 726, the emperor Leo the Isaurian issued a series of edicts against the veneration of images, ordering the army to destroy all icons – ushering in the period of Byzantine iconoclasm. At that time, all religious pictures and statues were removed from the Hagia Sophia. After a brief reprieve under Empress Irene (797–802), the iconoclasts made a comeback. The Emperor Theophilus ( r . 829–842 ) had two-winged bronze doors with his monograms installed at the southern entrance of the church. [ citation needed ]

The basilica suffered damage, first in a great fire in 859, and again in an earthquake on 8 January 869, that made one of the half-domes collapse. Emperor Basil I ordered the church repaired. [ citation needed ]

In the 940s or 950s, probably around 954 or 955, after the Rus'–Byzantine War of 941 and the death of the Grand Prince of Kiev, Igor I ( r . 912–945 ), his widow Olga of Kiev – regent for her infant son Sviatoslav I ( r . 945–972 ) – visited the emperor Constantine VII and was received as queen of the Rus' in Constantinople. [72] [73] [74] She was probably baptized in Hagia Sophia's baptistery, taking the name of the reigning augusta, Helena Lecapena, and receiving the titles zōstē patrikía and the styles of archontissa and hegemon of the Rus'. [73] [72] Her baptism was an important step towards the Christianization of the Kievan Rus', though the emperor's treatment of her visit in De caerimoniis does not mention baptism. [73] [72] Olga is deemed a saint and equal-to-the-apostles (Greek: ἰσαπόστολος , translit. isapóstolos) in the Eastern Orthodox Church. [75] [76] According to an early 14th-century source, the second church in Kiev, Saint Sophia's, was founded in anno mundi 6,460 in the Byzantine calendar, or c. 952 CE. [77] The name of this future cathedral of Kiev probably commemorates Olga's baptism at Hagia Sophia. [77]

After the great earthquake of 25 October 989, which collapsed the western dome arch, Emperor Basil II asked for the Armenian architect Trdat, creator of the Cathedral of Ani, to direct the repairs. [78] He erected again and reinforced the fallen dome arch, and rebuilt the west side of the dome with 15 dome ribs. [79] The extent of the damage required six years of repair and reconstruction the church was re-opened on 13 May 994. At the end of the reconstruction, the church's decorations were renovated, including the addition of four immense paintings of cherubs a new depiction of Christ on the dome a burial cloth of Christ shown on Fridays, and on the apse a new depiction of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus, between the apostles Peter and Paul. [80] On the great side arches were painted the prophets and the teachers of the church. [80]

According to the 13th-century Greek historian Niketas Choniates, in 1133 the emperor John II Comnenus celebrated a revived Roman triumph after his victory over the Danishmendids at the siege of Kastamon. [81] After proceeding through the streets on foot carrying a cross, with a silver quadriga bearing the icon of the Virgin Mary, the emperor participated in a ceremony at the cathedral before entering the imperial palace. [82] In 1168, another triumph was held by the emperor Manuel I Comnenus, again preceding with a gilded silver quadriga bearing the icon of the Virgin from the now-demolished East Gate (or Gate of St Barbara, later the Turkish: Top Kapısı, lit. 'Cannon Gate') in the Propontis Wall, to Hagia Sophia for a thanks-giving service, and then to the imperial palace. [83]

In 1181, the daughter of the emperor Manuel I, Maria Comnena and her husband, the caesar Renier of Montferrat, fled to Hagia Sophia at the culmination of their dispute with the empress Maria of Antioch, regent for her son, the emperor Alexius II Comnenus. [84] Maria Comnena and Renier occupied the cathedral with the support of the patriarch, refusing the demands of the imperial administration that they depart peaceably. [84] According to Niketas Choniates, they "transformed the sacred courtyard into a military camp", garrisoned the entrances to the complex with locals and mercenaries, and despite the strong opposition of the patriarch, made the "house of prayer into a den of thieves or a well-fortified and precipitous stronghold, impregnable to assault", while "all the dwellings adjacent to Hagia Sophia and adjoining the Augusteion were demolished by her men". [84] A battle ensued in the Augustaion and around the Milion, during which the defenders fought from the "gallery of the Catechumeneia (also called the Makron)" facing the Augusteion, from which they eventually retreated and took up positions in the exonarthex of Hagia Sophia itself. [84] At this point, "the patriarch was anxious lest the enemy troops enter the temple, with unholy feet trample the holy floor, and with hands defiled and dripping with blood still warm plunder the all-holy dedicatory offerings". [84] After a successful sally by Renier and his knights, Maria asked for a truce, the imperial assault ceased, and an amnesty was negotiated by the megas doux Andronikos Kontostephanos and the megas hetaireiarches, John Doukas. [84] Niketas Choniates compared the preservation of the cathedral to the efforts made by the 1st-century emperor Titus to avoid the destruction of the Second Temple during the Siege of Jerusalem in the First Jewish–Roman War. [84] Niketas Choniates reports that in 1182, a white hawk wearing jesses was seen to fly from the east to Hagia Sophia, flying three times from the "building of the Thōmaitēs" (a basilica erected on the southeastern side of the Augustaion) to the Palace of the Kathisma in the Great Palace, where new emperors were acclaimed. [85] This was supposed to presage the end of the reign of Andronicus I Comnenus ( r . 1183–1185 ). [85]

According to the Greek historian Niketas Choniates, in 1203 during the Fourth Crusade, the emperors Isaac II Angelus and Alexius IV Angelus stripped Hagia Sophia of all the gold ornaments and all the silver oil-lamps in order to pay off the Crusaders who had ousted Alexius III Angelus and helped Isaac return to the throne. [86] Upon the subsequent Sack of Constantinople in 1204, the church was further ransacked and desecrated by the Crusaders, as described by Niketas, though he did not witness the events in person. According to his account, composed at the court of the rump Empire of Nicaea, Hagia Sophia was stripped of its remaining metal ornaments, its altar was smashed into pieces, and a "woman laden with sins" sang and danced on the synthronon. [87] [88] [89] He adds that mules and donkeys were brought into the cathedral's sanctuary to carry away the gilded silver plating of the bema, the ambo, and the doors and other furnishings, and that one of these slipped on the marble floor and was accidentally disembowelled, further contaminating the place. [87] According to Ali ibn al-Athir, whose treatment of the Sack of Constantinople was probably dependent on a Christian source, the Crusaders massacred some clerics who had surrendered to them. [90] Much of the interior was damaged and would not be repaired until its return to Orthodox control in 1261. [45] The sack of Hagia Sophia, and Constantinople in general, remained a sore point in Catholic–Eastern Orthodox relations. [91]

During the Latin occupation of Constantinople (1204–1261) the church became a Latin Catholic cathedral. Baldwin I of Constantinople ( r . 1204–1205 ) was crowned emperor on 16 May 1204 in Hagia Sophia, at a ceremony which closely followed Byzantine practices. Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice who commanded the sack and invasion of the city by the Latin Crusaders in 1204, is buried inside the church, probably in the upper eastern gallery. In the 19th century, an Italian restoration team placed a cenotaph marker, frequently mistaken as being a medieval, near the probable location and still visible today. The original tomb was destroyed by the Ottomans during the conversion of the church into a mosque. [92]

At the capture of Constantinople in 1261 by the Empire of Nicaea and the emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, ( r . 1261–1282 ) the church was in a dilapidated state. In 1317, emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus ( r . 1282–1328 ) ordered four new buttresses (Byzantine Greek: Πυραμίδας , romanized: Pyramídas) to be built in the eastern and northern parts of the church, financing them with the inheritance of his late wife, Irene of Montferrat (d. 1314). [17] New cracks developed in the dome after the earthquake of October 1344, and several parts of the building collapsed on 19 May 1346 consequently, the church was closed until 1354, when repairs were undertaken by architects Astras and Peralta. [ citation needed ]

On 12 December 1452, Isidore of Kiev proclaimed in Hagia Sophia the long-anticipated and short-lived ecclesiastical union between the western Catholic and eastern Orthodox Churches as decided at the Council of Florence and the papal bull Laetentur Caeli. The union was unpopular among the Byzantines, who had already expelled the Patriarch of Constantinople, Gregory III, for his pro-union stance. A new patriarch was not installed until after the Ottoman conquest. According to the Greek historian Doukas, the Hagia Sophia was tainted by these Catholic associations, and the anti-union Orthodox faithful avoided the cathedral, considering it to be a haunt of demons and a "Hellenic" temple of Roman paganism. [93] Doukas also notes that after the Laetentur Caeli was proclaimed, the Byzantines dispersed discontentedly to nearby venues where they drank toasts to the Hodegetria icon, which had, according to late Byzantine tradition, interceded to save them in the former sieges of Constantinople by the Avar Khaganate and the Umayyad Caliphate. [94]

According to Nestor Iskander's Tale on the Taking of Tsargrad, the Hagia Sophia was the focus of an alarming omen interpreted as the Holy Spirit abandoning Constantinople on 21 May 1453, in the final days of the Siege of Constantinople. [95] The sky lit up, illuminating the city, and "many people gathered and saw on the Church of the Wisdom, at the top of the window, a large flame of fire issuing forth. It encircled the entire neck of the church for a long time. The flame gathered into one its flame altered, and there was an indescribable light. At once it took to the sky. … The light itself has gone up to heaven the gates of heaven were opened the light was received and again they were closed." [95] This phenomenon was perhaps St Elmo's fire induced by gunpowder smoke and unusual weather. [95] The author relates that the fall of the city to "Mohammadenism" was foretold in an omen seen by Constantine the Great – an eagle fighting with a snake – which also signified that "in the end Christianity will overpower Mohammedanism, will receive the Seven Hills, and will be enthroned in it". [95]

The eventual fall of Constantinople had long been predicted in apocalyptic literature. [96] A reference to the destruction of a city founded on seven hills in the Book of Revelation was frequently understood as Constantinople, and the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius had predicted an "Ishmaelite" conquest of the Roman Empire. [96] In this text, the Muslim armies reach the Forum Bovis before being turned back by divine intervention in apocalyptic later texts, the climactic turn takes place at the Column of Theodosius nearer Hagia Sophia, in others, at the Column of Constantine, closer still. [96] Hagia Sophia is mentioned in a hagiography, of uncertain date, detailing the life of the fictional saint Andrew the Fool. [97] The text's author claims to have been Nicephorus, a priest of Hagia Sophia, and contains a description of the end time in the form of a dialogue, in which the interlocutor, on being told by the saint that Constantinople will be sunk in a flood, and that "the waters as they gush forth will irresistibly deluge her and cover her and surrender her to the terrifying and immense sea of the abyss", says "some people say that the Great Church of God will not be submerged with the city but will be suspended in the air by an invisible power". [97] The reply is given that "When the whole city sinks into the sea, how can the Great Church remain? Who will need her? Do you think God dwells in temples made with hands?" [97] The Column of Constantine, however, is prophesied to endure. [97]

From the time of Procopius in the reign of Justinian, the equestrian imperial statue on the Column of Justinian in the Augustaion beside Hagia Sophia, which gestured towards Asia with right hand, was understood to represent the emperor holding back the threat to the Romans from the Sasanian Empire in the Roman–Persian Wars, while the orb or globus cruciger held in the statue's left was an expression of the global power of the Roman emperor. [98] Subsequently, in the Arab–Byzantine wars, the threat held back by the statue became the Umayyad Caliphate, and later still the statue was thought to be fending off the advance of the Turks. [98] The identity of the emperor was often confused with other famous saint-emperors like Theodosius the Great and Heraclius. [98] The orb was frequently referred to as an apple in foreigners' accounts of the city, and was interpreted in Greek folklore as a symbol of the Turks' mythological homeland in Central Asia, the "Lone Apple Tree". [98] The orb fell to the ground in 1316 and was replaced by 1325, but while it was still in place in 1421/2, by the time Johann Schiltberger saw it in 1427 the "empire-apple" (German: Reichsapfel) had fallen to the earth. [98] An attempt to raise it again in 1435 failed, and this amplified the prophecies of the city's fall. [98] For the Turks, the "red apple" (Turkish: kızıl elma) came to symbolize first Constantinople itself and then the military supremacy of the Islamic caliphate over the Christian empire. [98] In Niccolò Barbaro's account of the fall of the city in 1453, the Justinianic monument was interpreted in the last days of the siege as representing the city's founder Constantine the Great, indicating "this is the way my conqueror will come". [95]

According to Laonicus Chalcocondyles, Hagia Sophia was a refuge for the population during the capture of the city. [99] Despite the ill-repute and empty state of Hagia Sophia after December 1452, Doukas writes that after the Theodosian Walls were breached, the Byzantines took refuge there as the Turks advanced through the city: "All the women and men, monks, and nuns ran to the Great Church. They, both men and women, were holding in their arms their infants. … What a spectacle! That street was crowded, full of human beings." [99] He attributes their change of heart to a prophecy. [99]

What was the reason that compelled all to flee to the Great Church? They had been listening, for many years, to some pseudo-soothsayers, who had declared that the city was destined to be handed over to the Turks, who would enter in large numbers and would massacre the Romans as far as the Column of Constantine the Great. After this an angel would descend, holding his sword. He would hand over the kingdom, together with the sword, to some insignificant, poor, and humble man who would happen to be standing by the Column. He would say to him: "Take this sword and avenge the Lord's people." Then the Turks would be turned back, would be massacred by the pursuing Romans, and would be ejected from the city and from all places in the west and the east and would be driven as far as the borders of Persia, to a place called the Lone Tree …. That was the cause for the flight into the Great Church. In one hour that famous and enormous church was filled with men and women. An innumerable crowd was everywhere: upstairs, downstairs, in the courtyards, and in every conceivable place. They closed the gates and stood there, hoping for salvation.

Mosque (1453–1935) Edit

Constantinople fell to the attacking Ottoman forces on 29 May 1453. Sultan Mehmed entered the city and performed the Friday prayer and khutbah (sermon) in Hagia Sophia, this action marked the official conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. [100]

In accordance with the traditional custom at the time, Sultan Mehmed II allowed his troops and his entourage three full days of unbridled pillage and looting in the city shortly after it was captured. Once the three days passed, he would then claim its remaining contents for himself. [101] [102] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Mehmed II "permitted an initial period of looting that saw the destruction of many Orthodox churches". [103] However, by the end of the first day, he proclaimed that the looting should cease as he felt profound sadness when he toured the looted and enslaved city. [104] [101] [105]

Hagia Sophia was not exempted from the pillage and looting and specifically became its focal point as the invaders believed it to contain the greatest treasures and valuables of the city. [106] Shortly after the defence of the Walls of Constantinople collapsed and the Ottoman troops entered the city victoriously, the pillagers and looters made their way to the Hagia Sophia and battered down its doors before storming in. [107]

Throughout the period of the siege of Constantinople, the trapped worshippers of the city participated in the Divine Liturgy and the Prayer of the Hours at the Hagia Sophia and the church formed a safe-haven and a refuge for many of those who were unable to contribute to the city's defence, which comprised women, children, elderly, the sick and the wounded. [108] [109] [105] Being trapped in the church, the many congregants and yet more refugees inside became spoils-of-war to be divided amongst the triumphant invaders. The building was desecrated and looted, with the helpless occupants who sought shelter within the church being enslaved. [106] While most of the elderly and the infirm/wounded and sick were killed, the remainder (mainly teenage males and young boys) were chained up and sold into slavery. [110] [105]

The church's priests and religious personnel continued to perform Christian rites, prayers and ceremonies until finally being forced to stop by the invaders. [110] When Sultan Mehmed and his entourage entered the church, he ordered that it be converted into a mosque at once. One of the ʿulamāʾ (Islamic scholars) present climbed onto the church's ambo and recited the shahada ("There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger"), thus marking the beginning of the conversion of the church into a mosque. [17] [111] Mehmed is reported to have taken a sword to a soldier who tried to prise up one of the paving slabs of the Proconnesian marble floor. [112]

As described by Western visitors before 1453, such as the Córdoban nobleman Pero Tafur [113] and the Florentine geographer Cristoforo Buondelmonti, [114] the church was in a dilapidated state, with several of its doors fallen from their hinges Mehmed II ordered a renovation of the building. Mehmed attended the first Friday prayer in the mosque on 1 June 1453. [115] Aya Sofya became the first imperial mosque of Istanbul. [116] To the corresponding waqf were endowed most of the existing houses in the city and the area of the future Topkapı Palace. [17] From 1478, 2,360 shops, 1,300 houses, 4 caravanserais, 30 boza shops, and 23 shops of sheep heads and trotters gave their income to the foundation. [117] Through the imperial charters of 1520 (AH 926) and 1547 (AH 954) shops and parts of the Grand Bazaar and other markets were added to the foundation. [17]

Before 1481, a small minaret was erected on the southwest corner of the building, above the stair tower. [17] Later, Mehmed's successor Bayezid II ( r . 1481–1512 ) built another minaret at the northeast corner. [17] One of these collapsed after the earthquake of 1509, [17] and around the middle of the 16th century they were both replaced by two diagonally opposite minarets built at the east and west corners of the edifice. [17] In 1498, Bernardo Bonsignori was the last Western visitor to Hagia Sophia to report seeing the ancient Justinianic floor shortly afterwards the floor was covered over with carpet and not seen again until the 19th century. [112]

In the 16th century, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ( r . 1520–1566 ) brought two colossal candlesticks from his conquest of the Kingdom of Hungary and placed them on either side of the mihrab. During Suleiman's reign, the mosaics above the narthex and imperial gates depicting Jesus, Mary and various Byzantine emperors were covered by whitewash and plaster, which was removed in 1930 under the Turkish Republic. [118]

During the reign of Selim II ( r . 1566–1574 ), the building started showing signs of fatigue and was extensively strengthened with the addition of structural supports to its exterior by Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, who was also an earthquake engineer. [119] In addition to strengthening the historic Byzantine structure, Sinan built the two additional large minarets at the western end of the building, the original sultan's lodge and the türbe (mausoleum) of Selim II to the southeast of the building in 1576–1577 / AH 984. In order to do that, parts of the Patriarchate at the south corner of the building were pulled down the previous year. [17] Moreover, the golden crescent was mounted on the top of the dome, [17] while a respect zone 35 arşın (about 24 m) wide was imposed around the building, pulling down all the houses which in the meantime had nested around it. [17] Later his türbe hosted also 43 tombs of Ottoman princes. [17] Murad III ( r . 1574–1595 ) had two large alabaster Hellenistic urns transported from Pergamon (Bergama) and placed on two sides of the nave. [17]

In 1717, under Sultan Ahmed III ( r . 1703–1730 ), the crumbling plaster of the interior was renovated, contributing indirectly to the preservation of many mosaics, which otherwise would have been destroyed by mosque workers. [120] In fact, it was usual for them to sell the mosaic's tesserae—believed to be talismans—to the visitors. [120] Sultan Mahmud I ordered the restoration of the building in 1739 and added a medrese (a Koranic school, subsequently the library of the museum), an imaret (soup kitchen for distribution to the poor) and a library, and in 1740 a Şadirvan (fountain for ritual ablutions), thus transforming it into a külliye, i.e. a social complex. At the same time, a new sultan's lodge and a new mihrab were built inside.

Renovation of 1847–1849 Edit

Restoration of the Hagia Sophia was ordered by Sultan Abdulmejid I ( r . 1823–1861 ) and completed by eight hundred workers between 1847 and 1849, under the supervision of the Swiss-Italian architect brothers Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati. The brothers consolidated the dome with a restraining iron chain and strengthened the vaults, straightened the columns, and revised the decoration of the exterior and the interior of the building. [121] The mosaics in the upper gallery were exposed and cleaned, although many were recovered "for protection against further damage". [ citation needed ]

Eight new gigantic circular-framed discs or medallions were hung from the cornice, on each of the four piers and at either side of the apse and the west doors. These were painted, to designs by the calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa Izzet Efendi (1801–1877), with the names of Allah, Muhammad, the Rashidun (the first four caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali), and the two grandsons of Muhammad: Hasan and Husayn, the sons of Ali. The old chandeliers were replaced by new pendant ones. [ citation needed ]

In 1850 the architects Fossati built a new maqsura or caliphal loge in Neo-Byzantine columns and an Ottoman–Rococo style marble grille, connecting to the royal pavilion behind the mosque. [121] The new maqsura was built at the extreme east end of the northern aisle, next to the north-eastern pier. The existing maqsura in the apse, near the mihrab, was demolished. [121] A new entrance was constructed for the sultan: the Hünkar Mahfili. [121] The Fossati brothers also renovated the minbar and mihrab.

Outside the main building, the minarets were repaired and altered so that they were of equal height. [122] A clock building, the Muvakkithanesi was built by the Fossatis for the use of the muwaqqit (the mosque timekeeper), and a new madrasa (Islamic school) was constructed. The Kasr-ı Hümayun was also built under their direction. [121] When the restoration was finished, the mosque was re-opened with ceremonial pomp on 13 July 1849. [ citation needed ] An edition of lithographs from drawings made during the Fossatis' work on Hagia Sophia was published in London in 1852, entitled: Aya Sophia of Constantinople as Recently Restored by Order of H.M. The Sultan Abdulmedjid. [121]

Nave before restoration, looking east.

Nave and apse after restoration, looking east.

Nave and entrance after restoration, looking west.

North aisle from the entrance looking east

Nave and south aisle from the north aisle.

Northern gallery and entrance to the matroneum from the north-west.

Southern gallery from the south-west

Southern gallery from the Marble Door looking west.

Southern gallery from the Marble Door looking east.

Museum (1935–2020) Edit

In 1935, the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, transformed the building into a museum. The carpet and the layer of mortar underneath them were removed and marble floor decorations such as the omphalion appeared for the first time since the Fossatis' restoration, [123] while the white plaster covering many of the mosaics was removed. Nevertheless, the condition of the structure deteriorated, and the World Monuments Fund (WMF) placed Hagia Sophia on 1996 World Monuments Watch, and again in 1998. The building's copper roof had cracked, causing water to leak down over the fragile frescoes and mosaics. Moisture entered from below as well. Rising ground water had raised the level of humidity within the monument, creating an unstable environment for stone and paint. The WMF secured a series of grants from 1997 to 2002 for the restoration of the dome. The first stage of work involved the structural stabilization and repair of the cracked roof, which was undertaken with the participation of the Turkish Ministry of Culture. The second phase, the preservation of the dome's interior, afforded the opportunity to employ and train young Turkish conservators in the care of mosaics. By 2006, the WMF project was complete, though many other areas of Hagia Sophia continue to require significant stability improvement, restoration and conservation. [124]

In 2014, Hagia Sophia was the second most visited museum in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually. [125]

While use of the complex as a place of worship (mosque or church) was strictly prohibited, [126] in 1991 the Turkish government allowed the allocation of a pavilion in the museum complex (Ayasofya Müzesi Hünkar Kasrı) to be used as a prayer room, and since 2013, two of the museum's minarets had been used for voicing the call to prayer (the ezan) regularly. [127] [128]

In 2007, Greek American politician Chris Spirou launched an international organization "Free Agia Sophia Council" championing the cause of restoring the building to its original function as a Christian church. [129] [130] [131] From the early 2010s, several campaigns and government high officials, notably Turkey's deputy prime minister Bülent Arınç in November 2013, had demanded that Hagia Sophia be converted into a mosque again. [132] [133] [134] In 2015, in response to the acknowledgement by Pope Francis of the Armenian genocide, which is officially denied in Turkey, the mufti of Ankara, Mefail Hızlı, said that he believed that the Pope's remarks would accelerate the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. [135]

On 1 July 2016, Muslim prayers were held again in the Hagia Sophia for the first time in 85 years. [136] On November, the Turkish non-governmental organization, the Association for the Protection of Historic Monuments and the Environment filed a lawsuit for converting the museum into a mosque. [137] The court decided it should stay as a 'monument museum'. [138] In October 2016, Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) appointed, for the first time in 81 years, a designated imam, Önder Soy, to the Hagia Sofia mosque (Ayasofya Camii Hünkar Kasrı), located at the Hünkar Kasrı, a pavilion for the sultans' private ablutions. Since then, the adhan has been regularly called out from the Hagia Sophia's all four minarets five times a day. [127] [128] [139]

On 13 May 2017 a large group of people, organized by the Anatolia Youth Association (AGD), gathered in front of Hagia Sophia and prayed the morning prayer with a call for the re-conversion of the museum into a mosque. [140] On 21 June 2017 the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) organized a special programme, broadcast live by state-run television TRT, which included the recitation of the Quran and prayers in Hagia Sofia, to mark the Laylat al-Qadr. [141]

Reversion to mosque (2018–present) Edit

Since 2018, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had spoken of reverting the status of the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque, a move seen to be very popularly accepted by the religious populace whom Erdoğan is attempting to persuade. [142] On 31 March 2018 Erdoğan recited the first verse of the Quran in the Hagia Sophia, dedicating the prayer to the "souls of all who left us this work as inheritance, especially Istanbul's conqueror," strengthening the political movement to make the Hagia Sophia a mosque once again, which would reverse Atatürk's measure of turning the Hagia Sophia into a secular museum. [143] In March 2019 Erdoğan said that he would change the status of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque, [144] adding that it had been a "very big mistake" to turn it into a museum. [145] As a UNESCO World Heritage site, this change would require approval from UNESCO's World Heritage Committee. [146] In late 2019 Erdoğan's office took over the administration and upkeep of the nearby Topkapı Palace Museum, transferring responsibility for the site from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism by presidential decree. [147] [148] [149]

In 2020, Turkey's government celebrated the 567th anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople with an Islamic prayer in Hagia Sophia. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a televised broadcast "Al-Fath surah will be recited and prayers will be done at Hagia Sophia as part of conquest festival". [150] In May, during the anniversary events, passages from the Quran were read in the Hagia Sophia. Greece condemned this action, while Turkey in response accused Greece of making “futile and ineffective statements”. [151] In June, the head of the Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) said that "we would be very happy to open Hagia Sophia for worship" and if this happens "we will provide our religious services as we do in all our mosques”. [137] On 25 June, John Haldon, president of the International Association of Byzantine Studies, wrote an open letter to Erdoğan asking that he "consider the value of keeping the Aya Sofya as a museum". [32]

On 10 July 2020, the decision of the Council of Ministers to transform the Hagia Sophia into a museum was cancelled by the Council of State, decreeing that Hagia Sophia can be used only as a mosque and not “for any other purpose”. [152] Despite secular and global criticism, Erdoğan signed a decree annulling the Hagia Sophia's museum status, reverting it to a mosque. [153] [154] The call to prayer was broadcast from the minarets shortly after the announcement of the change and rebroadcast by major Turkish news networks. [154] The Hagia Sophia Museum's social media channels were taken down the same day, with Erdoğan announcing at a press conference that prayers themselves would be held there from 24 July. [154] A presidential spokesperson said it would become a working mosque, open to anyone similar to the Parisian churches Sacré-Cœur and Notre-Dame. The spokesperson also said that the change would not affect the status of the Hagia Sophia as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and that "Christian icons" within it would continue to be protected. [142] Earlier the same day, before the final decision, the Turkish Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak and the Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül expressed their expectations of opening the Hagia Sophia to worship for Muslims. [155] [156] Mustafa Şentop, Speaker of Turkey's Grand National Assembly, said "a longing in the heart of our nation has ended". [155] A presidential spokesperson claimed that all political parties in Turkey supported Erdoğan's decision [157] however, the Peoples' Democratic Party had previously released a statement denouncing the decision, saying "decisions on human heritage cannot be made on the basis of political games played by the government". [158] The mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, said that he supports the conversion "as long as it benefits Turkey", adding that he always said that Hagia Sophia is a mosque and for him it has remained a mosque since 1453. [159] Ali Babacan attacked the policy of his former ally Erdoğan, saying the Hagia Sophia issue "has come to the agenda now only to cover up other problems". [160] Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and Nobel laureate, publicly denounced the move, saying "Kemal Atatürk changed . Hagia Sophia from a mosque to a museum, honouring all previous Greek Orthodox and Latin Catholic history, making it as a sign of Turkish modern secularism". [154] [161]

On 17 July, Erdoğan announced that the first prayers in the Hagia Sophia would be open to between 1,000 and 1,500 worshippers, and reiterated that the issue was a matter of Turkey's sovereignty and international reaction would not deter him. [162] Turkey invited foreign leaders and officials, including Pope Francis, [163] for the first prayers which was held on Friday on July 24, 2020, in the Hagia Sophia. [164]

On 22 July, a turquoise-coloured carpet was laid to prepare the mosque for worshippers Ali Erbaş, head of the Diyanet, attended its laying. [160] The omphalion was left exposed. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey, Erbaş said Hagia Sophia would accommodate up to 1,000 worshippers at a time and asked that they bring "masks, a prayer rug, patience and understanding". [160] The mosque opened for Friday prayers on 24 July, the 97th anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Lausanne, which after the victory of the Republic in the Turkish War of Independence, reversed many of the territorial losses Turkey incurred after World War I's Treaty of Sèvres, including ending the Allies' occupation of Constantinople. [165] [160] White drapes covered the mosaics of the Virgin and Child in the apse. [161] Erbaş, holding a sword, proclaimed during his sermon, "Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror dedicated this magnificent construction to believers to remain a mosque until the Day of Resurrection". [161] Erdoğan and some government ministers attended the midday prayers as many worshippers prayed outside at one point the security cordon was breached and dozens of people broke through police lines. [161] It is the fourth Byzantine church converted from museum to a mosque during Erdoğan's rule. [166]

International reaction Edit

Days before the final decision on the conversion was made, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople stated in a sermon that "the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque would disappoint millions of Christians around the world”, he also said that Hagia Sophia, which was "a vital center where East is embraced with the West", would "fracture these two worlds" in the event of conversion. [167] [168] The proposed conversion was decried by other Orthodox Christian leaders, the Russian Orthodox Church's Patriarch Kirill of Moscow stating that "a threat to Hagia Sophia [wa]s a threat to all of Christian civilization". [169] [170]

Following the Turkish government's decision, UNESCO announced it "deeply regret[ted]" the conversion "made without prior discussion", and asked Turkey to "open a dialogue without delay", stating that the lack of negotiation was "regrettable". [28] [154] UNESCO further announced that the "state of conservation" of Hagia Sophia would be "examined" at the next session of the World Heritage Committee, urging Turkey "to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage". [28] Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Culture said "It is important to avoid any implementing measure, without prior discussion with UNESCO, that would affect physical access to the site, the structure of the buildings, the site's moveable property, or the site’s management". [28] UNESCO's statement of 10 July said "these concerns were shared with the Republic of Turkey in several letters, and again yesterday evening with the representative of the Turkish Delegation" without a response. [28]

The World Council of Churches, which claims to represent 500 million Christians of 350 denominations, condemned the decision to convert the building into a mosque, saying that would "inevitably create uncertainties, suspicions and mistrust" the World Council of Churches urged Turkey's president Erdoğan "to reconsider and reverse" his decision "in the interests of promoting mutual understanding, respect, dialogue and cooperation, and avoiding cultivating old animosities and divisions". [171] [29] [172] At the recitation of the Sunday Angelus prayer at St Peter's Square on 12 July Pope Francis said, "My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained" (Italian: Penso a Santa Sofia, a Istanbul, e sono molto addolorato). [note 1] [174] [30] The International Association of Byzantine Studies announced that its 21st International Congress, due to be held in Istanbul in 2021, will no longer be held there and is postponed to 2022. [32]

Josep Borrell, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Vice-President of the European Commission, released a statement calling the decisions by the Council of State and Erdoğan "regrettable" and pointing out that "as a founding member of the Alliance of Civilisations, Turkey has committed to the promotion of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and to fostering of tolerance and co-existence." [175] According to Borrell, the European Union member states' twenty-seven foreign ministers "condemned the Turkish decision to convert such an emblematic monument as the Hagia Sophia" at meeting on 13 July, saying it "will inevitably fuel the mistrust, promote renewed division between religious communities and undermine our efforts at dialog and cooperation" and that "there was a broad support to call on the Turkish authorities to urgently reconsider and reverse this decision". [176] [177] Greece denounced the conversion and considered it a breach of the UNESCO World Heritage titling. [142] Greek culture minister Lina Mendoni called it an "open provocation to the civilised world" which "absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice" in Erdoğan's Turkey, and that his Turkish nationalism "takes his country back six centuries". [31] Greece and Cyprus called for EU sanctions on Turkey. [178] Morgan Ortagus, the spokesperson for the United States Department of State, noted: "We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia." [31] Jean-Yves Le Drian, foreign minister of France, said his country "deplores" the move, saying "these decisions cast doubt on one of the most symbolic acts of modern and secular Turkey". [172] Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian Federation Council, said that it "will not do anything for the Muslim world. It does not bring nations together, but on the contrary brings them into collision" and calling the move a "mistake". [31] The former deputy prime minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini, held a demonstration in protest outside the Turkish consulate in Milan, calling for all plans for accession of Turkey to the European Union to be terminated "once and for all". [179] In East Jerusalem, a protest was held outside the Turkish consulate on the 13 July, with the burning of a Turkish flag and the display of the Greek flag and flag of the Greek Orthodox Church. [180] In a statement the Turkish foreign ministry condemned the burning of the flag, saying "nobody can disrespect or encroach our glorious flag". [181]

Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey, welcomed the decision, calling it "sound" and "pleasing". [182] [31] He further criticized the government of Cyprus, claiming that "the Greek Cypriot administration, who burned down our mosques, should not have a say in this". [182] Through a spokesman the Foreign Ministry of Iran welcomed the change, saying the decision was an "issue that should be considered as part of Turkey's national sovereignty" and "Turkey's internal affair". [183] Sergei Vershinin, deputy foreign minister of Russia, said that the matter was of one of "internal affairs, in which, of course, neither we nor others should interfere." [184] [185] The Arab Maghreb Union was supportive. [186] Ekrema Sabri, imam of the al-Aqsa Mosque, and Ahmed bin Hamad al-Khalili, grand mufti of Oman, both congratulated Turkey on the move. [186] The Muslim Brotherhood was also in favour of the news. [186] A spokesman for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas called the verdict "a proud moment for all Muslims". [187] Pakistani politician Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) welcomed the ruling, claiming it was "not only in accordance with the wishes of the people of Turkey but the entire Muslim world". [188] The Muslim Judicial Council group in South Africa praised the move, calling it "a historic turning point". [189] In Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania, there were prayers and celebrations topped by the sacrifice of a camel. [190] On the other hand, Shawki Allam, grand mufti of Egypt, ruled that conversion of the Hagia Sophia to a mosque is "impermissible". [191]

When President Erdoğan announced that the first Muslim prayers would be held inside the building on 24 July, he added that "like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims." Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said that the icons and mosaics of the building would be preserved, and that "in regards to the arguments of secularism, religious tolerance and coexistence, there are more than four hundred churches and synagogues open in Turkey today." [192] Ömer Çelik, spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), announced on 13 July that entry to Hagia Sophia would be free of charge and open to all visitors outside prayer times, during which Christian imagery in the building's mosaics would be covered by curtains or lasers. [179] In response to the criticisms of Pope Francis, Çelik said that the papacy was responsible for the greatest disrespect done to the site, during the 13th-century Latin Catholic Fourth Crusade's sack of Constantinople and the Latin Empire, during which the cathedral was pillaged. [179] The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, told TRT Haber on 13 July that the government was surprised at the reaction of UNESCO, saying that "We have to protect our ancestors’ heritage. The function can be this way or that way – it does not matter". [193]

On 14 July the prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said his government was "considering its response at all levels" to what he called Turkey's "unnecessary, petty initiative", and that "with this backward action, Turkey is opting to sever links with western world and its values". [194] In relation to both Hagia Sophia and the Cyprus–Turkey maritime zones dispute, Mitsotakis called for European sanctions against Turkey, referring to it as "a regional troublemaker, and which is evolving into a threat to the stability of the whole south-east Mediterranean region". [194] Dora Bakoyannis, Greek former foreign minister, said Turkey's actions had "crossed the Rubicon", distancing itself from the West. [195] On the day of the building's re-opening, Mitsotakis called it not a show of power but evidence of Turkey's weakness. [161]

Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. [6] Its interior is decorated with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings of great artistic value. The temple itself was so richly and artistically decorated that according to much later legend, Justinian proclaimed, "Solomon, I have outdone thee!" (Byzantine Greek: Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών ). Justinian himself had overseen the completion of the greatest cathedral ever built up to that time, and it was to remain the largest cathedral for 1,000 years up until the completion of the cathedral in Seville in Spain. [196]

The Hagia Sophia is of masonry construction. The structure has brick and mortar joints that are 1.5 times the width of the bricks. The mortar joints are composed of a combination of sand and minute ceramic pieces distributed evenly throughout the mortar joints. This combination of sand and potsherds was often used in Roman concrete, predecessor of modern concrete. [197]

Justinian's basilica was at once the culminating architectural achievement of late antiquity and the first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Its influence, both architecturally and liturgically, was widespread and enduring in the Eastern Christianity, Western Christianity, and Islam alike.

The vast interior has a complex structure. The nave is covered by a central dome which at its maximum is 55.6 m (182 ft 5 in) from floor level and rests on an arcade of 40 arched windows. Repairs to its structure have left the dome somewhat elliptical, with the diameter varying between 31.24 and 30.86 m (102 ft 6 in and 101 ft 3 in). [198]

At the western entrance side and eastern liturgical side, there are arched openings extended by half domes of identical diameter to the central dome, carried on smaller semi-domed exedrae a hierarchy of dome-headed elements built up to create a vast oblong interior crowned by the central dome, with a clear span of 76.2 m (250 ft). [6]

Therefore, Svenshon suggested that the size of the side of the central square of Hagia Sophia is not 100 Byzantine feet, but instead 99. This measurement is not only rational, but is also embedded in the system of the side-and-diagonal number progression (70/99) and therefore a usable value by the applied mathematics of antiquity. It gives a diagonal of 140 which is manageable for constructing a huge dome as was done in the Hagia Sophia. [201]

Floor Edit

The stone floor of Hagia Sophia dates from the 6th century. After the first collapse of the vault, the broken dome was left in situ on the original Justinianic floor and a new floor laid above the rubble when the dome was rebuilt in 558. [202] From the installation of this second Justinianic floor, the floor became part of the liturgy, with significant locations and spaces demarcated in various ways with different coloured stones and marbles. [202]

The floor is predominantly of Proconnesian marble, quarried on Proconnesus (Marmara Island) in the Propontis (Sea of Marmara). This was the main white marble used in Constantinople's monuments. Other parts of the floor were quarried in Thessaly in Roman Greece: the Thessalian verd antique "marble". The Thessalian verd antique bands across the nave floor were often likened to rivers. [203]

The floor was praised by numerous authors and repeatedly compared to a sea. [112] The Justinianic poet Paul the Silentiary compared the ambo and the solea connecting it with the sanctuary to an island in a sea, with the sanctuary itself a harbour. [112] The 9th-century Narratio writes of it as "like the sea or the flowing waters of a river". [112] Michael the Deacon in the 12th century also described the floor as a sea in which the ambo and other liturgical furniture stood as islands. [112] In the 15th-century conquest of Constantinople, the Ottoman caliph Mehmed is said to have ascended to the dome and the galleries in order to admire the floor, which according to Tursun Beg resembled "a sea in a storm" or a "petrified sea". [112] Other Ottoman-era authors also praised the floor Tâcîzâde Cafer Çelebi compared it to waves of marble. [112] The floor was hidden beneath a carpet on 22 July 2020. [160]

Narthex and portals Edit

The Imperial Gate was the main entrance between the exo- and esonarthex. It was reserved exclusively for the Emperor. The Byzantine mosaic above the portal depicts Christ and an unnamed emperor. A long ramp from the northern part of the outer narthex leads up to the upper gallery.

Upper gallery Edit

The upper gallery, the matroneum, is laid out in a horseshoe shape that encloses the nave on three sides and is interrupted by the apse. Several mosaics are preserved in the upper gallery, an area traditionally reserved for the Empress and her court. The best-preserved mosaics are located in the southern part of the gallery.

The upper gallery contains runic graffiti presumed to be left by members of the Varangian Guard.

Throughout history the Hagia Sophia has been a victim to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, and has also fallen victim to vandalism. Structural damage can easily be seen on its exterior surface. To ensure that the Hagia Sophia did not sustain any damage on the interior of the building, studies have been conducted using ground penetrating radar within the gallery of the Hagia Sophia. With the use of GPR (ground penetrating radar), teams discovered weak zones within the Hagia Sophia's gallery and also concluded that the curvature of the vault dome has been shifted out of proportion, compared to its original angular orientation. [204]

Dome Edit

The dome of Hagia Sophia has spurred particular interest for many art historians, architects and engineers because of the innovative way the original architects envisioned it. The dome is carried on four spherical triangular pendentives, one of the first large-scale uses of them. The pendentives are the corners of the square base of the dome, which curve upwards into the dome to support it, restraining the lateral forces of the dome and allowing its weight to flow downwards. [205] [206] It was the largest pendentive dome in the world until the completion of St Peter's Basilica, and has a much lower height than any other dome of such a large diameter.

The great dome at the Hagia Sophia is 32.6 meters (one hundred and seven feet) in diameter and is only 0.61 meters (two feet) thick. The main building material for the Hagia Sophia composed of brick and mortar. Brick aggregate was used to make roofs easier to construct. The aggregate weighs 2402.77 kilograms per cubic meter (one hundred and fifty pounds per cubic foot), an average weight of masonry construction at the time. Due to the materials plasticity it was chosen over cut stone due to the fact that aggregate can be used over a longer distance. [207] According to Rowland Mainstone, "it is unlikely that the vaulting-shell is anywhere more than one normal brick in thickness". [208]

The weight of the dome remained a problem for most of the building's existence. The original cupola collapsed entirely after the earthquake of 558 in 563 a new dome was built by Isidore the younger, a nephew of Isidore of Miletus. Unlike the original, this included 40 ribs and was raised 6.1 meters (20 feet), in order to lower the lateral forces on the church walls. A larger section of the second dome collapsed as well, in two episodes, so that today only two sections of the present dome, in the north and south side, still date from the 562 reconstructions. Of the whole dome's 40 ribs, the surviving north section contains eight ribs, while the south section includes six ribs. [209]

Although this design stabilizes the dome and the surrounding walls and arches, the actual construction of the walls of Hagia Sophia weakened the overall structure. The bricklayers used more mortar than brick, which is more effective if the mortar was allowed to settle as the building would have been more flexible however, the builders raced to complete the building and left no time for the mortar to cure before they began the next layer. When the dome was erected, its weight caused the walls to lean outward because of the wet mortar underneath. When Isidore the Younger rebuilt the fallen cupola, he had first to build up the interior of the walls to make them vertical again. Additionally, the architect raised the height of the rebuilt dome by approximately 6 metres (20 ft) so that the lateral forces would not be as strong and its weight would be transmitted more effectively down into the walls. Moreover, he shaped the new cupola like a scalloped shell or the inside of an umbrella, with ribs that extend from the top down to the base. These ribs allow the weight of the dome to flow between the windows, down the pendentives, and ultimately to the foundation. [210]

Hagia Sophia is famous for the light that reflects everywhere in the interior of the nave, giving the dome the appearance of hovering above. This effect was achieved by inserting forty windows around the base of the original structure. Moreover, the insertion of the windows in the dome structure reduced its weight. [210]

Buttresses Edit

Numerous buttresses have been added throughout the centuries. The flying buttresses to the west of the building, although thought to have been constructed by the Crusaders upon their visit to Constantinople, were actually built during the Byzantine era. This shows that the Romans had prior knowledge of flying buttresses, which can also be seen at in Greece, at the Rotunda of Galerius in Thessaloniki, at the monastery of Hosios Loukas in Boeotia, and in Italy at the octagonal basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. [210] Other buttresses were constructed during the Ottoman times under the guidance of the architect Sinan. A total of 24 buttresses were added. [211]

Minarets Edit

The minarets were an Ottoman addition and not part of the original church's Byzantine design. They were built for notification of invitations for prayers (adhan) and announcements. Mehmed had built a wooden minaret over one of the half domes soon after Hagia Sophia's conversion from a cathedral to a mosque. This minaret does not exist today. One of the minarets (at southeast) was built from red brick and can be dated back from the reign of Mehmed or his successor Beyazıd II. The other three were built from white limestone and sandstone, of which the slender northeast column was erected by Bayezid II and the two identical, larger minarets to the west were erected by Selim II and designed by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. Both are 60 metres (200 ft) in height, and their thick and massive patterns complete Hagia Sophia's main structure. Many ornaments and details were added to these minarets on repairs during the 15th, 16th, and 19th centuries, which reflect each period's characteristics and ideals. [212] [213]

Originally, under Justinian's reign, the interior decorations consisted of abstract designs on marble slabs on the walls and floors, as well as mosaics on the curving vaults. Of these mosaics, one can still see the two archangels Gabriel and Michael in the spandrels (corners) of the bema. There were already a few figurative decorations, as attested by the late 6th-century ekphrasis of Paul the Silentiary, the Description of Hagia Sophia. The spandrels of the gallery are faced in inlaid thin slabs (opus sectile), showing patterns and figures of flowers and birds in precisely cut pieces of white marble set against a background of black marble. In later stages, figurative mosaics were added, which were destroyed during the iconoclastic controversy (726–843). Present mosaics are from the post-iconoclastic period.

Apart from the mosaics, many figurative decorations were added during the second half of the 9th century: an image of Christ in the central dome Eastern Orthodox saints, prophets and Church Fathers in the tympana below historical figures connected with this church, such as Patriarch Ignatius and some scenes from the Gospels in the galleries. Basil II let artists paint on each of the four pendentives a giant six-winged seraph. [80] The Ottomans covered their faces with a golden star, [80] but in 2009 one of them was restored to the original state. [214]

Loggia of the Empress Edit

The loggia of the empress is located in the centre of the gallery of the Hagia Sophia, above the Imperial Door and directly opposite the apse. From this matroneum (women's gallery), the empress and the court-ladies would watch the proceedings down below. A green stone disc of verd antique marks the spot where the throne of the empress stood. [215] [216]

Lustration urns Edit

Two huge marble lustration (ritual purification) urns were brought from Pergamon during the reign of Sultan Murad III. From the Hellenistic period, they are carved from single blocks of marble. [17]

Marble Door Edit

The Marble Door inside the Hagia Sophia is located in the southern upper enclosure or gallery. It was used by the participants in synods, who entered and left the meeting chamber through this door. It is said [ by whom? ] that each side is symbolic and that one side represents heaven while the other represents hell. Its panels are covered in fruits and fish motives. The door opens into a space that was used as a venue for solemn meetings and important resolutions of patriarchate officials. [217]

The Nice Door Edit

The Nice Door is the oldest architectural element found in the Hagia Sophia dating back to the 2nd century BC. The decorations are of reliefs of geometric shapes as well as plants that are believed to have come from a pagan temple in Tarsus in Cilicia, part of the Cibyrrhaeot Theme in modern-day Mersin Province in south-eastern Turkey. It was incorporated into the building by Emperor Theophilos in 838 where it is placed in the south exit in the inner narthex. [218]

Imperial Door Edit

The Imperial Door is the door that would be used solely by the Emperor as well as his personal bodyguard and retinue. It is the largest door in the Hagia Sophia and has been dated to the 6th century. It is about 7 meters long and Byzantine sources say it was made with wood from Noah's Ark. [219]

Wishing column Edit

At the northwest of the building, there is a column with a hole in the middle covered by bronze plates. This column goes by different names the "perspiring" or "sweating column", the "crying column", or the "wishing column". The column is said to be damp when touched and have supernatural powers. [220] The legend states that since Gregory the Wonderworker appeared near the column in the year 1200, it has been moist. It is believed that touching the moisture cures many illnesses. [221] [222]

The first mosaics which adorned the church were completed during the reign of Justin II. [223] Many of the non-figurative mosaics in the church come from this period. Most of the mosaics, however, were created in the 10th and 12th centuries, [224] following the periods of Byzantine Iconoclasm.

During the Sack of Constantinople in 1204, the Latin Crusaders vandalized valuable items in every important Byzantine structure of the city, including the golden mosaics of the Hagia Sophia. Many of these items were shipped to Venice, whose Doge, Enrico Dandolo, had organized the invasion and sack of Constantinople after an agreement with Prince Alexios Angelos, the son of a deposed Byzantine emperor.

19th-century restoration Edit

Following the building's conversion into a mosque in 1453, many of its mosaics were covered with plaster, due to Islam's ban on representational imagery. This process was not completed at once, and reports exist from the 17th century in which travellers note that they could still see Christian images in the former church. In 1847–1849, the building was restored by two Swiss-Italian Fossati brothers, Gaspare and Giuseppe, and Sultan Abdulmejid I allowed them to also document any mosaics they might discover during this process, which were later archived in Swiss libraries. [225] This work did not include repairing the mosaics and after recording the details about an image, the Fossatis painted it over again. The Fossatis restored the mosaics of the two hexapteryga (singular Greek: ἑξαπτέρυγον , pr. hexapterygon, six-winged angel it is uncertain whether they are seraphim or cherubim) located on the two east pendentives, covering their faces again before the end of the restoration. [226] The other two placed on the west pendentives are copies in paint created by the Fossatis since they could find no surviving remains of them. [226] As in this case, the architects reproduced in paint damaged decorative mosaic patterns, sometimes redesigning them in the process. The Fossati records are the primary sources about a number of mosaic images now believed to have been completely or partially destroyed in the 1894 Istanbul earthquake. These include a mosaic over a now-unidentified Door of the Poor, a large image of a jewel-encrusted cross, and many images of angels, saints, patriarchs, and church fathers. Most of the missing images were located in the building's two tympana.

One mosaic they documented is Christ Pantocrator in a circle, which would indicate it to be a ceiling mosaic, possibly even of the main dome which was later covered and painted over with Islamic calligraphy that expounds God as the light of the universe. The Fossatis' drawings of the Hagia Sophia mosaics are today kept in the Archive of the Canton of Ticino. [227]

20th-century restoration Edit

Many mosaics were uncovered in the 1930s by a team from the Byzantine Institute of America led by Thomas Whittemore. The team chose to let a number of simple cross images remain covered by plaster but uncovered all major mosaics found.

Because of its long history as both a church and a mosque, a particular challenge arises in the restoration process. Christian iconographic mosaics can be uncovered, but often at the expense of important and historic Islamic art. Restorers have attempted to maintain a balance between both Christian and Islamic cultures. In particular, much controversy rests upon whether the Islamic calligraphy on the dome of the cathedral should be removed, in order to permit the underlying Pantocrator mosaic of Christ as Master of the World, to be exhibited (assuming the mosaic still exists). [228]

The Hagia Sophia has been a victim to natural disasters that have caused deterioration to the buildings structure and walls. The deterioration of the Hagia Sophia's walls can be directly related to salt crystallization. The crystallization of salt is due to an intrusion of rainwater that is at fault for the Hagia Sophia's deteriorating inner and outer walls. Diverting excess rainwater is the main solution to solve the deteriorating walls at the Hagia Sophia. [229]

Built between 532 and 537 a subsurface structure under the Hagia Sophia has been under investigation, using LaCoste-Romberg gravimeters to determine the depth of the subsurface structure and to discover other hidden cavities beneath the Hagia Sophia. The hidden cavities have also acted as a support system against earthquakes. With these findings using the LaCoste-Romberg gravimeters, it was also discovered that the Hagia Sophia's foundation is built on a slope of natural rock. [230]

Imperial Gate mosaic Edit

The Imperial Gate mosaic is located in the tympanum above that gate, which was used only by the emperors when entering the church. Based on style analysis, it has been dated to the late 9th or early 10th century. The emperor with a nimbus or halo could possibly represent emperor Leo VI the Wise or his son Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus bowing down before Christ Pantocrator, seated on a jewelled throne, giving his blessing and holding in his left hand an open book. [231] The text on the book reads: "Peace be with you" (John 20:19, 20:26) and "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). On each side of Christ's shoulders is a circular medallion with busts: on his left the Archangel Gabriel, holding a staff, on his right his mother Mary. [232]

Southwestern entrance mosaic Edit

The southwestern entrance mosaic, situated in the tympanum of the southwestern entrance, dates from the reign of Basil II. [233] It was rediscovered during the restorations of 1849 by the Fossatis. The Virgin sits on a throne without a back, her feet resting on a pedestal, embellished with precious stones. The Christ Child sits on her lap, giving his blessing and holding a scroll in his left hand. On her left side stands emperor Constantine in ceremonial attire, presenting a model of the city to Mary. The inscription next to him says: "Great emperor Constantine of the Saints". On her right side stands emperor Justinian I, offering a model of the Hagia Sophia. The medallions on both sides of the Virgin's head carry the nomina sacra MP and ΘΥ , abbreviations of the Greek: Μήτηρ του Θεοῦ , romanized: Mētēr Theou, lit. 'Mother of God'. [234] The composition of the figure of the Virgin enthroned was probably copied from the mosiac inside the semi-dome of the apse inside the liturgical space. [235]

Apse mosaics Edit

The mosaic in the semi-dome above the apse at the east end shows Mary, mother of Jesus holding the Christ Child and seated on a jewelled thokos backless throne. [235] Since its rediscovery after a period of concealment in the Ottoman era, it "has become one of the foremost monuments of Byzantium". [235] The infant Jesus's garment is depicted with golden tesserae.

Guillaume-Joseph Grelot [fr] , who had travelled to Constantinople, in 1672 engraved and in 1680 published in Paris an image of the interior of Hagia Sophia which shows the apse mosaic indistinctly. [235] Together with a picture by Cornelius Loos drawn in 1710, these images are early attestations of the mosiac before it was covered towards the end of the 18th century. [235] The mosaic of the Virgin and Child was rediscovered during the restorations of the Fossati brothers in 1847–1848 and revealed by the restoration of Thomas Whittemore in 1935–1939. [235] It was studied again in 1964 with the aid of scaffolding. [235] [236]

It is not known when this mosaic was installed. [235] According to Cyril Mango, the mosaic is "a curious reflection on how little we know about Byzantine art". [237] The work is generally believed to date from after the end of Byzantine Iconoclasm and usually dated to the patriarchate of Photius I ( r . 858–867, 877–886 ) and the time of the emperors Michael III ( r . 842–867 ) and Basil I ( r . 867–886 ). [235] Most specifically, the mosaic has been connected with a surviving homily known to have been written and delivered by Photius in the cathedral on 29 March 867. [235] [238] [239] [240] [241]

Other scholars have favoured earlier or later dates for the present mosaic or its composition. Nikolaos Oikonomides pointed out that Photius's homily refers to standing portrait of the Theotokos – a Hodegetria – while the present mosaic shows her seated. [242] Likewise, a biography of the patriarch Isidore I ( r . 1347–1350 ) by his successor Philotheus I ( r . 1353–1354, 1364–1376 ) composed before 1363 describes Isidore seeing a standing image of the Virgin at Epiphany in 1347. [235] Serious damage was done to the building by earthquakes in the 14th century, and it is possible that a standing image of the Virgin that existed in Photius's time was lost in the earthquake of 1346, in which the eastern end of Hagia Sophia was partly destroyed. [243] [235] This interpretation supposes that the present mosaic of the Virgin and Child enthroned is of the late 14th century, a time in which, beginning with Nilus of Constantinople ( r . 1380–1388 ), the patriarchs of Constantinople began to have official seals depicting the Theotokos enthroned on a thokos. [244] [235]

Still other scholars have proposed an earlier date than the later 9th century. According to George Galavaris, the moasic seen by Photius was a Hodegetria portrait which after the earthquake of 989 was replaced by the present image not later than the early 11th century. [244] [243] According to Oikonomides however, the image in fact dates to before the Triumph of Orthodoxy, having been completed c. 787–797 , during the iconodule interlude between the First Iconoclast (726–787) and the Second Iconoclast (814–842) periods. [242] Having been plastered over in the Second Iconoclasm, Oikonomides argues a new, standing image of the Virgin Hodegetria was created above the older mosaic in 867, which then fell off in the earthquakes of the 1340s and revealed again the late 8th-century image of the Virgin enthroned. [242]

More recently, analysis of a hexaptych menologion icon panel from Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai has determined that the panel, showing numerous scenes from the life of the Virgin and other theologically significant iconic representations, contains an image at the centre very similar to that in Hagia Sophia. [235] The image is labelled in Greek merely as: Μήτηρ Θεοῦ , romanized: Mētēr Theou, lit. 'Mother of God', but in the Georgian language the inscription reveals the image is labelled "of the semi-dome of Hagia Sophia". [235] This image is therefore the oldest depiction of the apse mosaic known and demonstrates that the apse mosaic's appearance was similar to the present day mosaic in the late 11th or early 12th centuries, when the hexaptych was inscribed in Georgian by a Georgian monk, which rules out a 14th-century date for the mosaic. [235]

The portraits of the archangels Gabriel and Michael (largely destroyed) in the bema of the arch also date from the 9th century. The mosaics are set against the original golden background of the 6th century. These mosaics were believed to be a reconstruction of the mosaics of the 6th century that were previously destroyed during the iconoclastic era by the Byzantines of that time, as represented in the inaugural sermon by the patriarch Photios. However, no record of figurative decoration of Hagia Sophia exists before this time. [245]

Emperor Alexander mosaic Edit

The Emperor Alexander mosaic is not easy to find for the first-time visitor, located on the second floor in a dark corner of the ceiling. It depicts the emperor Alexander in full regalia, holding a scroll in his right hand and a globus cruciger in his left. A drawing by the Fossatis showed that the mosaic survived until 1849 and that Thomas Whittemore, founder of the Byzantine Institute of America who was granted permission to preserve the mosaics, assumed that it had been destroyed in the earthquake of 1894. Eight years after his death, the mosaic was discovered in 1958 largely through the researches of Robert Van Nice. Unlike most of the other mosaics in Hagia Sophia, which had been covered over by ordinary plaster, the Alexander mosaic was simply painted over and reflected the surrounding mosaic patterns and thus was well hidden. It was duly cleaned by the Byzantine Institute's successor to Whittemore, Paul A. Underwood. [246] [247]

Empress Zoe mosaic Edit

The Empress Zoe mosaic on the eastern wall of the southern gallery date from the 11th century. Christ Pantocrator, clad in the dark blue robe (as is the custom in Byzantine art), is seated in the middle against a golden background, giving his blessing with the right hand and holding the Bible in his left hand. On either side of his head are the nomina sacra IC and XC , meaning Iēsous Christos. He is flanked by Constantine IX Monomachus and Empress Zoe, both in ceremonial costumes. He is offering a purse, as a symbol of donation, he made to the church, while she is holding a scroll, symbol of the donations she made. The inscription over the head of the emperor says: "Constantine, pious emperor in Christ the God, king of the Romans, Monomachus". The inscription over the head of the empress reads as follows: "Zoë, the very pious Augusta". The previous heads have been scraped off and replaced by the three present ones. Perhaps the earlier mosaic showed her first husband Romanus III Argyrus or her second husband Michael IV. Another theory is that this mosaic was made for an earlier emperor and empress, with their heads changed into the present ones. [248]

Comnenus mosaic Edit

The Comnenus mosaic, also located on the eastern wall of the southern gallery, dates from 1122. The Virgin Mary is standing in the middle, depicted, as usual in Byzantine art, in a dark blue gown. She holds the Christ Child on her lap. He gives his blessing with his right hand while holding a scroll in his left hand. On her right side stands emperor John II Comnenus, represented in a garb embellished with precious stones. He holds a purse, symbol of an imperial donation to the church. his wife, the empress Irene of Hungary stands on the left side of the Virgin, wearing ceremonial garments and offering a document. Their eldest son Alexius Comnenus is represented on an adjacent pilaster. He is shown as a beardless youth, probably representing his appearance at his coronation aged seventeen. In this panel, one can already see a difference with the Empress Zoe mosaic that is one century older. There is a more realistic expression in the portraits instead of an idealized representation. The Empress Irene (born Piroska), daughter of Ladislaus I of Hungary, is shown with plaited blond hair, rosy cheeks, and grey eyes, revealing her Hungarian descent. The emperor is depicted in a dignified manner. [249]

Deësis mosaic Edit

The Deësis mosaic ( Δέησις , "Entreaty") probably dates from 1261. It was commissioned to mark the end of 57 years of Latin Catholic use and the return to the Eastern Orthodox faith. It is the third panel situated in the imperial enclosure of the upper galleries. It is widely considered the finest in Hagia Sophia, because of the softness of the features, the humane expressions and the tones of the mosaic. The style is close to that of the Italian painters of the late 13th or early 14th century, such as Duccio. In this panel the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist (Ioannes Prodromos), both shown in three-quarters profile, are imploring the intercession of Christ Pantocrator for humanity on Judgment Day. The bottom part of this mosaic is badly deteriorated. [250] This mosaic is considered as the beginning of a renaissance in Byzantine pictorial art. [251]

Northern tympanum mosaics Edit

The northern tympanum mosaics feature various saints. They have been able to survive due to their high and inaccessible location. They depict Patriarchs of Constantinople John Chrysostom and Ignatius standing, clothed in white robes with crosses, and holding richly jewelled Bibles. The figures of each patriarch, revered as saints, are identifiable by labels in Greek. The other mosaics in the other tympana have not survived probably due to the frequent earthquakes, as opposed to any deliberate destruction by the Ottoman conquerors. [252]

Dome mosaic Edit

The dome was decorated with four non-identical figures of the six-winged angels which protect the Throne of God it is uncertain whether they are seraphim or cherubim. The mosaics survive in the eastern part of the dome, but since the ones on the western side were damaged during the Byzantine period, they have been renewed as frescoes. During the Ottoman period each seraph's (or cherub's) face was covered with metallic lids in the shape of stars, but these were removed to reveal the faces during renovations in 2009. [253]

Mosaic in the northern tympanum depicting Saint John Chrysostom

Six patriarchs mosaic in the southern tympanum as drawn by the Fossati brothers

Moasics as drawn by the Fossati brothers

Guillaume-Joseph Grelot [fr] 's engraving 1672, looking east and showing the apse mosaic

Interior of the Hagia Sophia by John Singer Sargent, 1891

Watercolour of the interior by Philippe Chaperon, 1893

Detail of relief on the Marble Door.

Imperial Gate from the nave

19th-century centotaph of Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, and commander of the 1204 Sack of Constantinople

Ambigram ΝΙΨΟΝΑΝΟΜΗΜΑΤΑΜΗΜΟΝΑΝΟΨΙΝ ("Wash your sins, not only the face") inscribed upon a holy water font

Gate of the külliye, by John Frederick Lewis, 1838

Fountain of Ahmed III from the gate of the külliye, by John Frederick Lewis, 1838

Southern side of Hagia Sophia, looking east, by John Frederick Lewis, 1838

From Verhandeling van de godsdienst der Mahometaanen, by Adriaan Reland, 1719

Hagia Sophia from the south-west, 1914

Hagia Sophia in the snow, December 2015

Many religious buildings have been modeled on the Hagia Sophia's core structure of a large central dome resting on pendentives and buttressed by two semi-domes.

Many Byzantine churches were modeled on the Hagia Sophia including the namesake Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki, Greece. Under Justinian, the Hagia Irene was remodeled to have a dome similar to the Hagia Sophia.

Several mosques commissioned by the Ottoman dynasty closely mimic the geometry of the Hagia Sophia, including the Süleymaniye Mosque and the Bayezid II Mosque. In many cases, Ottoman architects preferred to surround the central dome with four semi-domes rather than two. [254] This is true in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the New Mosque (Istanbul), and the Fatih Mosque. Like the original plan of the Hagia Sophia, many of these mosques are also entered through a colonnaded courtyard. However, the courtyard of the Hagia Sophia no longer exists.

Neo-Byzantine churches modeled on the Hagia Sophia include the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral and Poti Cathedral which closely replicate the internal geometry of the Hagia Sophia. The interior of the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral is a nearly 1-to-1 copy of the Hagia Sophia. The marble revetment also closely mimics the source work. Like Ottoman mosques, many churches based on the Hagia Sophia include four semi-domes rather than two, such as the Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade. [255] [256]

Several churches combine the layout of the Hagia Sophia with a Latin cross plan. For instance, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis (St. Louis), where the transept is formed by two semi-domes surrounding the main dome. This church also closely emulates the column capitals and mosaic styles of the Hagia Sophia. Other similar examples include the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, St Sophia's Cathedral, London, Saint Clement Catholic Church, Chicago, and Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Catedral Metropolitana Ortodoxa in São Paulo and the Église du Saint-Esprit (Paris) closely follow the interior layout of the Hagia Sophia. Both include four semi-domes, but the two lateral semi-domes are very shallow. In terms of size, the Église du Saint-Esprit is about two-thirds the scale of the Hagia Sophia.

About Us

One of the magnificent ancient buildings of İstanbul is the Basilica Cistern located in the southwest of Hagia Sofia. Constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), this big underground water reservoir is called as &ldquoYerebatan Cistern&rdquo among the public because of the underground marble columns. As there used to be a basilica in the place of the cistern, it is also called Basilica Cistern.

The cistern is 140 m long, and 70 m wide, and covers a rectangular area as a giant structure. Accessible with 52-step staircase, the Cistern shelters 336 columns, each of which is 9 m high. Erected at 4.80 m intervals from one another the columns are composed of 12 rows, each has 28 columns. The case-bay of the cistern is conveyed by the columns through arches. Majority of the columns, most of which is understood to have been compiled from the ancient structures and sculpted of various kinds of marbles, is composed of a single part and one of it is composed of two parts. The head of these columns bear different features in parts. 98 of them reflect the Corinthian style and part of them reflect the Dorian style. The cistern has 4.80 m high brick walls, and the floor is covered by bricks, and plastered by a thick layer of brick dust mortar for water tightness. Covering 9,800 sqm area in total, the cistern has an estimated water storage capacity of 100,000 tons.

Medusa Heads

Except couple of the edged and grooved columns of the cistern, majority of them are shaped as a cylinder. Two Medusa heads, which are used as supports under the two columns at the northwest edge of the cistern, are the great work of art from the Roman period. What attracts most attention from the visitors is that the structure from which the Medusa heads have been taken is unknown. The researchers often consider that it has been brought for being used as supports to the column at the time of construction of the cistern. However, this has not prevented myths for the heads of Medusa.

As the legend has it, Medusa is one of the three Gorgonas that are female monsters in the underground world in Greek mythology. The snake-head Medusa, one of the three sisters, has the power of gorgonising the ones that happen to look at her. Accordingly, Gorgone paintings and sculptures were being used for protecting big structures and special venues in that time. And putting the head of medusa in the cistern was for protecting purposes. According to another rumour, Medusa was a girl who boasted for her black eyes, long hair and beautiful body. She loved Perseus, the son of Zeus. Athena was also in love with Perseus and this made Medusa jealous. Therefore, Athena converted medusa's hairs into snakes. Now, everybody that happened to look at Medusa was gorgonised. Afterwards, Perseus headed off medusa and beat many enemies by using her power.

Therefore, the head of Medusa was engraved on the handles of the swords in Byzantium, and applied onto supports of the communes in reverse (so that the onlookers would not be gorgonised). According to another rumour, Medusa gorgonised herself by looking sideways. For this reason, the sculptor that made it generated Medusa in three different positions depending on the reflection angles of the light. The Basilica Cistern has been renovated repeatedly until today. It was repaired by the Architect Kayserili Mehmet Ağa during the reign of Ahmad III (M.1723) in the Ottoman Empire, followed by Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) in the 19 th century. There are 8 columns in front of the northeast wall towards the middle of the cistern, and they were exposed to the risk of breaking during the construction works in 1955-1960, thus each of them were surrounded by a thick layer of cement, so they lost their previous feature though.

During the rule of Byzantium, the Basilica Cistern used to meet the water needs and requirements of the great palace that covered a wide area where the emperor resided, as well as the other denizens in the region. After conquest of the city of Istanbul in 1453, it was used for a little while and water was supplied to Topkapı Palace where the sultans resided.. However, the Ottomans preferred running water over still water, and established their own water facilities in the city. It is understood that the cistern was not used thereafter and the western world did not notice it until the mid XVI century. It was in 1544-1550 when P. Gyllius, a Dutch traveller that came to Istanbul for making researches on Byzantium ruins was rediscovered and introduced to the western world. In one of his researches, P. Gyllius, while roaming around Hagia Sofia, managed to enter inside the cistern with a torch carrying in his hand by proceeding from the stone steps that went towards the underground from the backyard of a wooden building surrounded by walls situated on a large underground cistern as he was told that the householders there pulled water with buckets down inside the large round holes similar to well on the ground floor of their houses, and even fished there. P. Gyllius ranged around the cistern on a rowing boat under harsh conditions, measured it and identified the columns. The information acquired from his experience was published in the travel book, and Gyllius had influence on many travelers.

The cistern was subject to repeated renovations since its establishment. Renovated twice during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, the cistern was repaired during the rule of Ahmed III (1723) by the Architect Kayserili Mehmet Ağa for the first time. And the second repair was made during the rule of Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876-1909). In republican period, the cistern was cleaned by Istanbul Municipality in 1987, and was opened to visits for creating a route. Another extensive cleaning was made in May 1994.

This mysterious venue is an integral part of the Istanbul itineraries and has been visited -among others- by the US former President Bill Clinton, Wim Kok the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Lamberto Dini, Former Minister of foreign Affairs of Italy, Göran Persson, Former Prime Minister of Sweden and Thomas Klestil, Former prime Minister of Austria until today.

Currently operated by Kültür A.Ş. (Culture Co.), one of the affiliates of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the Basilica Cistern functions as a museum and is the home for many national and international events.

Constantinople, Basilica Cistern

Basilica cistern: largest underground water basin in Constantinople.

When Byzantium, renamed Constantinople, became the main imperial residence in the Roman Empire, it soon had more inhabitants than it could supply with the water of its wells. So, large cisterns were built to store water that would otherwise flow to the sea. One of these was the Basilica Cistern or, as it is called today, Yerebatan Sarayı . It was rebuilt by the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) after the Nika revolt (532).

The Basilica Cistern is a large, vaulted space its roof rests on twelve rows of twenty-eight marble columns, which are about nine meters high. As the total surface measures 65 x 138 meters, the maximum capacity is almost 85,000 cubic meters, which was brought to this cistern from a well about twenty kilometer away through a new aqueduct, also built by Justinian. The water was used in the imperial palace (hence the name, "imperial cistern").

/> The "head" in the Basilica Cistern

The 336 columns - 246 are still visible - were brought to the Basilica Cistern from older buildings ("spolia"). Probably, one of these buildings was the place where the two giant gorgo heads were found that are still in the cistern and support two columns. Their original site may have been the Forum of Constantine, where similar heads have been found.

It is not clear why they are here. What is certain, is that the ancient Babylonians and - taking an idea from the east - Greeks believed that gorgo's faces warded off evil. After all, their looks could kill. This may be the reason to place these ugly faces in the first building, but does not explain why they were brought to this cistern, or why one of them is tilted and the other is even put upside down. Putting upside down pagan statues is not unheard-of, though: in some churches, the first Christians made altars of older monuments in this fashion. The symbolism is obvious. However, a cistern is not a church.

On top of the Basilica Cistern was one of the porticoes along Constantinople's main road, the Mese.

Emperor Justinian I commissioned his city prefect Longinus to build it. [2] It was completed in 532, after the Nika riots. [2] As many as 7,000 slaves worked to build the cistern. [3]

The large cistern provided a water source for the emperor's palace. [4] Sometime before the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 the cistern was closed. [4] It was discovered in 1545 by Petrus Gyllius. After that Ottoman city officials used it for dumping waste including corpses. [5] It has been restored at least three times. [5] In 1985 it was closed for cleaning again. [4] In 1987 it was opened to the public as a tourist attraction. [4] 2 million tourist visited the Cistern in 2013.

The cistern is a huge underground room that measures about 138 metres (453 ft) by 64.6 metres (212 ft) [6] It is about 10,000 square metres (2.5 acres) in area. [7] The cistern can hold 80,000 cubic metres (21,000,000 US gal) of water. [7] The ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns. [8] Each one is 40.75 metres (133.7 ft) high. [8]

The cistern was used for a James Bond movie From Russia with Love. [9] Also the 2009 movie The International was shot here. [9] The 2011 video game, Assassin's Creed: Revelations includes scenes from the Basilica Cistern. [9]


The Latin word basilica derives from Ancient Greek: βασιλική στοά , romanized: basilikḗ stoá, lit. 'royal stoa'. The first known basilica—the Basilica Porcia in the Roman Forum—was constructed in 184 BC by Marcus Porcius Cato (the Elder). [2] After the construction of Cato the Elder's basilica, the term came to be applied to any large covered hall, whether it was used for domestic purposes, was a commercial space, a military structure, or religious building. [2]

The plays of Plautus suggest that basilica buildings may have existed prior to Cato's building. The plays were composed between 210 and 184 BC and refer to a building that might be identified with the Atrium Regium. [3] Another early example is the basilica at Pompeii (late 2nd century BC). Inspiration may have come from prototypes like Athens's Stoa Basileios or the hypostyle hall on Delos, but the architectural form is most derived from the audience halls in the royal palaces of the Diadochi kingdoms of the Hellenistic period. These rooms were typically a high nave flanked by colonnades. [3]

These basilicas were rectangular, typically with central nave and aisles, usually with a slightly raised platform and an apse at each of the two ends, adorned with a statue perhaps of the emperor, while the entrances were from the long sides. [4] [5] The Roman basilica was a large public building where business or legal matters could be transacted. As early as the time of Augustus, a public basilica for transacting business had been part of any settlement that considered itself a city, used in the same way as the covered market houses of late medieval northern Europe, where the meeting room, for lack of urban space, was set above the arcades, however. [ clarify ] [ citation needed ] Although their form was variable, basilicas often contained interior colonnades that divided the space, giving aisles or arcaded spaces on one or both sides, with an apse at one end (or less often at each end), where the magistrates sat, often on a slightly raised dais. The central aisle – the nave – tended to be wider and taller than the flanking aisles, so that light could penetrate through the clerestory windows. [ citation needed ]

In the late Republican era, basilicas were increasingly monumental Julius Caesar replaced the Basilica Sempronia with his own Basilica Julia, dedicated in 46 BC, while the Basilica Aemilia was rebuilt around 54 BC in so spectacular a fashion that Pliny the Elder wrote that it was among the most beautiful buildings in the world (it was simultaneously renamed the Basilica Paulli). Thereafter until the 4th century AD, monumental basilicas were routinely constructed at Rome by both private citizens and the emperors. These basilicas were reception halls and grand spaces in which élite persons could impress guests and visitors, and could be attached to a large country villa or an urban domus. They were simpler and smaller than were civic basilicas, and can be identified by inscriptions or their position in the archaeological context. Domitian constructed a basilica on the Palatine Hill for his imperial residential complex around 92 AD, and a palatine basilica was typical in imperial palaces throughout the imperial period. [3]

Long, rectangular basilicas with internal peristyle became a quintessential element of Roman urbanism, often forming the architectural background to the city forum and used for diverse purposes. [6] Beginning with Cato in the early second century BC, politicians of the Roman Republic competed with one another by building basilicas bearing their names in the Forum Romanum, the centre of ancient Rome. Outside the city, basilicas symbolised the influence of Rome and became a ubiquitous fixture of Roman coloniae of the late Republic from c.100 BC. The earliest surviving basilica is the basilica of Pompeii, built 120 BC. [6] Basilicas were the administrative and commercial centres of major Roman settlements: the "quintessential architectural expression of Roman administration". [7] Adjoining it there were normally various offices and rooms housing the curia and a shrine for the tutela. [8] Like Roman public baths, basilicas were commonly used as venues for the display of honorific statues and other sculptures, complementing the outdoor public spaces and thoroughfares. [9]

Beside the Basilica Porcia on the Forum Romanum, the Basilica Aemilia was built in 179 BC, and the Basilica Sempronia in 169 BC. [3] In the Republic two types of basilica were built across Italy in the mid-2nd to early 1st centuries BC: either they were nearly square as at Fanum Fortunae, designed by Vitruvius, and Cosa, with a 3:4 width-length ratio or else they were more rectangular, as Pompeii's basilica, whose ratio is 3:7. [10] [3]

The basilica at Ephesus is typical of the basilicas in the Roman East, which usually have a very elongated footprint and a ratio between 1:5 and 1:9, with open porticoes facing the agora (the Hellenic forum) this design was influenced by the existing tradition of long stoae in Hellenistic Asia. [3] Provinces in the west lacked this tradition, and the basilicas the Romans commissioned there were more typically Italian, with the central nave divided from the side-aisles by an internal colonnade in regular proportions. [3]

Beginning with the Forum of Caesar (Latin: forum Iulium) at the end of the Roman Republic, the centre of Rome was embellished with a series of imperial fora typified by a large open space surrounded by a peristyle, honorific statues of the imperial family (gens), and a basilica, often accompanied by other facilities like a temple, market halls and public libraries. [6] In the imperial period, statues of the emperors with inscribed dedications were often installed near the basilicas' tribunals, as Vitruvius recommended. Examples of such dedicatory inscriptions are known from basilicas at Lucus Feroniae and Veleia in Italy and at Cuicul in Africa Proconsolaris, and inscriptions of all kinds were visible in and around basilicas. [11]

At Ephesus the basilica-stoa had two storeys and three aisles and extended the length of the civic agora's north side, complete with colossal statues of the emperor Augustus and his imperial family. [7]

The remains of a large subterranean Neopythagorean basilica dating from the 1st century AD were found near the Porta Maggiore in Rome in 1915, and is known as the Porta Maggiore Basilica. [ citation needed ]

After its destruction in 60 AD, Londinium (London) was endowed with its first forum and basilica under the Flavian dynasty. [12] The basilica delimited the northern edge of the forum with typical nave, aisles, and a tribunal, but with an atypical semi-basement at the western side. [12] Unlike in Gaul, basilica-forum complexes in Roman Britain did not usually include a temple instead a shrine was usually inside the basilica itself. [12] At Londinium however, there was probably no temple at all attached to the original basilica, but instead a contemporary temple was constructed nearby. [12] Later, in 79 AD, an inscription commemorated the completion of the 385 by 120 foot (117 m × 37 m) basilica at Verulamium (St Albans) under the governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola by contrast the first basilica at Londinium was only 148 by 75 feet (45 m × 23 m). [12] The smallest known basilica in Britain was built by the Silures at Caerwent and measured 180 by 100 feet (55 m × 30 m). [12]

When Londinium became a colonia, the whole city was re-planned and a new great forum-basilica complex erected, larger than any in Britain. [13] Londinium's basilica, more than 500 feet (150 m) long, was the largest north of the Alps and a similar length to the modern St Paul's Cathedral. [13] Only the later basilica-forum complex at Treverorum was larger, while at Rome only the 525 foot (160 m) Basilica Ulpia exceeded London's in size. [13] It probably had arcaded, rather than trabeate, aisles, and a double row of square offices on the northern side, serving as the administrative centre of the colonia, and its size and splendour probably indicate an imperial decision to change the administrative capital of Britannia to Londinium from Camulodunum (Colchester), as all provincial capitals were designated coloniae. [13] In 300 Londinium's basilica was destroyed as a result of the rebellion led by the augustus of the break-away Britannic Empire, Carausius. [14] Remains of the great basilica and its arches were discovered during the construction of Leadenhall Market in the 1880s. [13]

At Corinth in the 1st century AD, a new basilica was constructed in on the east side of the forum. [7] It was possibly inside the basilica that Paul the Apostle, according to the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 18:12–17) was investigated and found innocent by the Suffect Consul Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus, the brother of Seneca the Younger, after charges were brought against him by members of the local Jewish diaspora. [7] Modern tradition instead associates the incident with an open-air inscribed bema in the forum itself. [7]

The emperor Trajan constructed his own imperial forum in Rome accompanied by his Basilica Ulpia dedicated in 112. [15] [3] Trajan's Forum (Latin: forum Traiani) was separated from the Temple of Trajan, the Ulpian Library, and his famous Column depicting the Dacian Wars by the Basilica. [15] [3] It was an especially grand example whose particular symmetrical arrangement with an apse at both ends was repeated in the provinces as a characteristic form. [3] To improve the quality of the Roman concrete used in the Basilica Ulpia, volcanic scoria from the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius were imported which, though heavier, was stronger than the pumice available closer to Rome. [16] The Bailica Ulpia is probably an early example of tie bars to restrain the lateral thrust of the barrel vault resting on a colonnade both tie-bars and scoria were used in contemporary work at the Baths of Trajan and later the Hadrianic domed vault of the Pantheon. [16]

In early 123, the augusta and widow of the emperor Trajan, Pompeia Plotina died. Hadrian, successor to Trajan, deified her and had a basilica constructed in her honour in southern Gaul. [17]

The Basilica Hilariana (built c.145–155) was designed for the use of the cult of Cybele. [3]

The largest basilica built outside Rome was that built under the Antonine dynasty on the Byrsa hill in Carthage. [18] The basilica was built together with a forum of enormous size and was contemporary with a great complex of public baths and a new aqueduct system running for 82 miles (132 km), then the longest in the Roman Empire. [18]

The basilica at Leptis Magna, built by the Septimius Severus a century later in about 216 is a notable 3rd century AD example of the traditional type, most notable among the works influenced by the Basilica Ulpia. [2] [3] The basilica at Leptis was built mainly of limestone ashlar, but the apses at either end were only limestone in the outer sections and built largely of rubble masonry faced with brick, with a number of decorative panels in opus reticulatum. [19] The basilica stood in a new forum and was accompanied by a programme of Severan works at Leptis including thermae, a new harbour, and a public fountain. [6] At Volubilis, principal city of Mauretania Tingitana, a basilica modelled on Leptis Magna's was completed during the short reign of Macrinus. [20]

Basilicas in the Roman Forum Edit

  • Basilica Porcia: first basilica built in Rome (184 BC), erected on the personal initiative and financing of the censor Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder) as an official building for the tribunes of the plebs , built by the censor Aemilius Lepidus in 179 BC , built by the censor Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus in 169 BC , erected probably by the consul Lucius Opimius in 121 BC, at the same time that he restored the temple of Concord (Platner, Ashby 1929) , initially dedicated in 46 BC by Julius Caesar and completed by Augustus 27 BC to AD 14 , erected under Trajan, emperor from AD 98 to 117 (built between AD 308 and 312)

The aisled-hall plan of the basilica was adopted by a number of religious cults in late antiquity. [2] At Sardis, a monumental basilica housed the city's synagogue, serving the local Jewish diaspora. [21] New religions like Christianity required space for congregational worship, and the basilica was adapted by the early Church for worship. [8] Because they were able to hold large number of people, basilicas were adopted for Christian liturgical use after Constantine the Great. The early churches of Rome were basilicas with an apisidal tribunal and used the same construction techniques of columns and timber roofing. [2]

At the start of the 4th century at Rome there was a change in burial and funerary practice, moving away from earlier preferences for inhumation in cemeteries – popular from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD – to the newer practice of burial in catacombs and inhumation inside Christian basilicas themselves. [22] Conversely, new basilicas often were erected on the site of existing early Christian cemeteries and martyria, related to the belief in Bodily Resurrection, and the cult of the sacred dead became monumentalised in basilica form. [23] Traditional civic basilicas and bouleuteria declined in use with the weakening of the curial class (Latin: curiales) in the 4th and 5th centuries, while their structures were well suited to the requirements of congregational liturgies. [23] The conversion of these types of buildings into Christian basilicas was also of symbolic significance, asserting the dominance of Christianity and supplanting the old political function of public space and the city-centre with an emphatic Christian social statement. [23] Traditional monumental civic amenities like gymnasia, palaestrae, and thermae were also falling into disuse, and became favoured sites for the construction of new churches, including basilicas. [23]

Under Constantine, the basilica became the most prestigious style of church building, was "normative" for church buildings by the end of the 4th century, and were ubiquitous in western Asia, North Africa, and most of Europe by the close of the 7th century. [24] Christians also continued to hold services in synagogues, houses, and gardens, and continued practising baptism in rivers, ponds, and Roman bathhouses. [24] [25]

The development of Christian basilicas began even before Constantine's reign: a 3rd-century mud-brick house at Aqaba had become a Christian church and was rebuilt as a basilica. [24] Within was a rectangular assembly hall with frescoes and at the east end an ambo, a cathedra, and an altar. [24] Also within the church were a catecumenon (for catechumens), a baptistery, a diaconicon, and a prothesis: all features typical of later 4th century basilica churches. [24] A Christian structure which included the prototype of the triumphal arch at the east end of later Constantinian basilicas. [24] Known as the Megiddo church, it was built at Kefar 'Othnay in Palestine, possibly c. 230, for or by the Roman army stationed at Legio (later Lajjun). [24] Its dedicatory inscriptions include the names of women who contributed to the building and were its major patrons, as well as men's names. [24] A number of buildings previously believed to have been Constantinian or 4th century have been reassessed as dating to later periods, and certain examples of 4th century basilicas are not distributed throughout the Mediterranean world at all evenly. [26] Christian basilicas and martyria attributable to the 4th century are rare on the Greek mainland and on the Cyclades, while the Christian basilicas of Egypt, Cyprus, Syria, Transjordan, Hispania, and Gaul are nearly all of later date. [26] The basilica at Ephesus's Magnesian Gate, the episcopal church at Laodicea on the Lycus, and two extramural churches at Sardis have all been considered 4th century constructions, but on weak evidence. [23] Development of pottery chronologies for Late Antiquity had helped resolve questions of dating basilicas of the period. [27]

Three examples of a basilica discoperta or "hypaethral basilica" with no roof above the nave are inferred to have existed. [28] The 6th century Anonymous pilgrim of Piacenza described a "a basilica built with a quadriporticus, with the middle atrium uncovered" at Hebron, while at Pécs and near Salona two ruined 5th buildings of debated interpretation might have been either roofless basilica churches or simply courtyards with an exedra at the end. [28] An old theory by Ejnar Dyggve that these were the architectural intermediary between the Christian martyrium and the classical heröon is no longer credited. [28]

The magnificence of early Christian basilicas reflected the patronage of the emperor and recalled his imperial palaces and reflected the royal associations of the basilica with the Hellenistic Kingdoms and even earlier monarchies like that of Pharaonic Egypt. [24] Similarly, the name and association resounded with the Christian claims of the royalty of Christ – according to the Acts of the Apostles the earliest Christians had gathered at the royal Stoa of Solomon in Jerusalem to assert Jesus's royal heritage. [24] For early Christians, the Bible supplied evidence that the First Temple and Solomon's palace were both hypostyle halls and somewhat resembled basilicas. [24] Hypostyle synagogues, often built with apses in Palestine by the 6th century, share a common origin with the Christian basilicas in the civic basilicas and in the pre-Roman style of hypostyle halls in the Mediterranean Basin, particularly in Egypt, where pre-classical hypostyles continued to be built in the imperial period and were themselves converted into churches in the 6th century. [24] Other influences on the evolution of Christian basilicas may have come from elements of domestic and palatial architecture during the pre-Constantinian period of Christianity, including the reception hall or aula (Ancient Greek: αὐλή , romanized: aulḗ, lit. 'courtyard') and the atria and triclinia of élite Roman dwellings. [24] The versatility of the basilica form and its variability in size and ornament recommended itself to the early Christian Church: basilicas could be grandiose as the Basilica of Maxentius in the Forum Romanum or more practical like the so-called Basilica of Bahira in Bosra, while the Basilica Constantiniana on the Lateran Hill was of intermediate scale. [24] This basilica, begun in 313, was the first imperial Christian basilica. [24] Imperial basilicas were first constructed for the Christian Eucharist liturgy in the reign of Constantine. [25]

Basilica churches were not economically inactive. Like non-Christian or civic basilicas, basilica churches had a commercial function integral to their local trade routes and economies. Amphorae discovered at basilicas attest their economic uses and can reveal their position in wider networks of exchange. [27] At Dion near Mount Olympus in Macedonia, now an Archaeological Park, the latter 5th century Cemetery Basilica, a small church, was replete with potsherds from all over the Mediterranean, evidencing extensive economic activity took place there. [27] [29] Likewise at Maroni Petrera on Cyprus, the amphorae unearthed by archaeologists in the 5th century basilica church had been imported from North Africa, Egypt, Palestine, and the Aegean basin, as well as from neighbouring Asia Minor. [27] [30]

According to Vegetius, writing c. 390, basilicas were convenient for drilling soldiers of the Late Roman army during inclement weather. [3]

Basilica of Maxentius Edit

The 4th century Basilica of Maxentius, begun by Maxentius between 306 and 312 and according to Aurelius Victor's De Caesaribus completed by Constantine I, was an innovation. [31] [32] Earlier basilicas had mostly had wooden roofs, but this basilica dispensed with timber trusses and used instead cross-vaults made from Roman bricks and concrete to create one of the ancient world's largest covered spaces: 80 m long, 25 m wide, and 35 m high. [3] [31] The vertices of the cross-vaults, the largest Roman examples, were 35 m. [31] The vault was supported on marble monolithic columns 14.5 m tall. [31] The foundations are as much as 8 m deep. [16] The vault was supported by brick latticework ribs (Latin: bipedalis) forming lattice ribbing, an early form of rib vault, and distributing the load evenly across the vault's span. [16] Similar brick ribs were employed at the Baths of Maxentius on the Palatine Hill, where they supported walls on top of the vault. [16] Also known as the Basilica Constantiniana, 'Basilica of Constantine' or Basilica Nova, 'New Basilica', it chanced to be the last civic basilica built in Rome. [3] [31]

Inside the basilica the central nave was accessed by five doors opening from an entrance hall on the eastern side and terminated in an apse at the western end. [31] Another, shallower apse with niches for statues was added to the centre of the north wall in a second campaign of building, while the western apse housed a colossal acrolithic statue of the emperor Constantine enthroned. [31] Fragments of this statue are now in the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill, part of the Capitoline Museums. Opposite the northern apse on the southern wall, another monumental entrance was added and elaborated with a portico of porphyry columns. [31] One of the remaining marble interior columns was removed in 1613 by Pope Paul V and set up as an honorific column outside Santa Maria Maggiore. [31]

Constantinian period Edit

In the early 4th century Eusebius used the word basilica (Ancient Greek: βασιλική , romanized: basilikḗ) to refer to Christian churches in subsequent centuries as before, the word basilica referred in Greek to the civic, non-ecclesiastical buildings, and only in rare exceptions to churches. [33] Churches were nonetheless basilican in form, with an apse or tribunal at the end of a nave with two or more aisles typical. [33] A narthex (sometimes with an exonarthex) or vestibule could be added to the entrance, together with an atrium, and the interior might have transepts, a pastophorion, and galleries, but the basic scheme with clerestory windows and a wooden truss roof remained the most typical church type until the 6th century. [33] The nave would be kept clear for liturgical processions by the clergy, with the laity in the galleries and aisles to either side. [33] The function of Christian churches was similar to that of the civic basilicas but very different from temples in contemporary Graeco-Roman polytheism: while pagan temples were entered mainly by priests and thus had their splendour visible from without, within Christian basilicas the main ornamentation was visible to the congregants admitted inside. [24] Christian priests did not interact with attendees during the rituals which took place at determined intervals, whereas pagan priests were required to perform individuals' sacrifices in the more chaotic environment of the temple precinct, with the temple's facade as backdrop. [24] In basilicas constructed for Christian uses, the interior was often decorated with frescoes, but these buildings' wooden-roof often decayed and failed to preserve the fragile frescoes within. [26] Thus was lost an important part of the early history of Christian art, which would have sought to communicate early Christian ideas to the mainly illiterate Late Antique society. [26] On the exterior, basilica church complexes included cemeteries, baptisteries, and fonts which "defined ritual and liturgical access to the sacred", elevated the social status of the Church hierarchy, and which complemented the development of a Christian historical landscape Constantine and his mother Helena were patrons of basilicas in important Christian sites in the Holy Land and Rome, and at Milan and Constantinople. [26]

Around 310, while still a self-proclaimed augustus unrecognised at Rome, Constantine began the construction of the Basilica Constantiniana or Aula Palatina, 'palatine hall', as a reception hall for his imperial seat at Trier (Augusta Treverorum), capital of Belgica Prima. [3] On the exterior, Constantine's palatine basilica was plain and utilitarian, but inside was very grandly decorated. [34]

In the reign of Constantine I, a basilica was constructed for the Pope in the former barracks of the Equites singulares Augusti, the cavalry arm of the Praetorian Guard. [35] (Constantine had disbanded the Praetorian guard after his defeat of their emperor Maxentius and replaced them with another bodyguard, the Scholae Palatinae.) [35] In 313 Constantine began construction of the Basilica Constantiniana on the Lateran Hill. [24] This basilica became Rome's cathedral church, known as St John Lateran, and was more richly decorated and larger than any previous Christian structure. [24] However, because of its remote position from the Forum Romanum on the city's edge, it did not connect with the older imperial basilicas in the fora of Rome. [24] Outside the basilica was the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, a rare example of an Antique statue that has never been underground. [9]

According to the Liber Pontificalis, Constantine was also responsible for the rich interior decoration of the Lateran Baptistery constructed under Pope Sylvester I (r. 314–335), sited about 50 metres (160 ft). [25] The Lateran Baptistery was the first monumental free-standing baptistery, and in subsequent centuries Christian basilica churches were often endowed with such baptisteries. [25]

At Cirta, a Christian basilica erected by Constantine was taken over by his opponents, the Donatists. [35] After Constantine's failure to resolve the Donatist controversy by coercion between 317 and 321, he allowed the Donatists, who dominated Africa, to retain the basilica and constructed a new one for the Catholic Church. [35]

The original titular churches of Rome were those which had been private residences and which were donated to be converted to places of Christian worship. [24] Above an originally 1st century AD villa and its later adjoining warehouse and Mithraeum, a large basilica church had been erected by 350, subsuming the earlier structures beneath it as a crypt. [24] The basilica was the first church of San Clemente al Laterano. [24] Similarly, at Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio, an entire ancient city block – a 2nd-century insula on the Caelian Hill – was buried beneath a 4th-century basilica. [24] The site was already venerated as the martyrium of three early Christian burials beforehand, and part of the insula had been decorated in the style favoured by Christian communities frequenting the early Catacombs of Rome. [24]

By 350 in Serdica (Sofia, Bulgaria), a monumental basilica – the Church of Saint Sophia – was erected, covering earlier structures including a Christian chapel, an oratory, and a cemetery dated to c. 310. [24] Other major basilica from this period, in this part of Europe, is the Great Basilica in Plovdiv (4th century AD).

Valentinianic–Theodosian period Edit

In the late 4th century the dispute between Nicene and Arian Christianity came to head at Mediolanum (Milan), where Ambrose was bishop. [36] At Easter in 386 the Arian party, preferred by the Theodosian dynasty, sought to wrest the use of the basilica from the Nicene partisan Ambrose. [36] According to Augustine of Hippo, the dispute resulted in Ambrose organising an 'orthodox' sit-in at the basilica and arranged the miraculous invention and translation of martyrs, whose hidden remains had been revealed in a vision. [36] During the sit-in, Augustine credits Ambrose with the introduction from the "eastern regions" of antiphonal chanting, to give heart to the orthodox congregation, though in fact music was likely part of Christian ritual since the time of the Pauline epistles. [37] [36] The arrival and reburial of the martyrs' uncorrupted remains in the basilica in time for the Easter celebrations was seen as powerful step towards divine approval. [36]

At Philippi, the market adjoining the 1st-century forum was demolished and replaced with a Christian basilica. [7] Civic basilicas throughout Asia Minor became Christian places of worship examples are known at Ephesus, Aspendos, and at Magnesia on the Maeander. [23] The Great Basilica in Antioch of Pisidia is a rare securely dated 4th century Christian basilica and was the city's cathedral church. [23] The mosaics of the floor credit Optimus, the bishop, with its dedication. [23] Optimus was a contemporary of Basil of Caesarea and corresponded with him c. 377. [23] Optimus was the city's delegate at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, so the 70 m-long single-apsed basilica near the city walls must have been constructed around that time. [23] Pisidia had a number of Christian basilicas constructed in Late Antiquity, particularly in former bouleuteria, as at Sagalassos, Selge, Pednelissus, while a civic basilica was converted for Christians' use in Cremna. [23]

At Chalcedon, opposite Constantinople on the Bosporus, the relics of Euphemia – a supposed Christian martyr of the Diocletianic Persecution – were housed in a martyrium accompanied by a basilica. [38] The basilica already existed when Egeria passed through Chalcedon in 384, and in 436 Melania the Younger visited the church on her own journey to the Holy Land. [38] From the description of Evagrius Scholasticus the church is identifiable as an aisled basilica attached to the martyrium and preceded by an atrium. [39] The Council of Chalcedon (8–31 October 451) was held in the basilica, which must have been large enough to accommodate the more than two hundred bishops that attneded its third session, together with their translators and servants around 350 bishops attended the Council in all. [40] [41] In an ekphrasis in his eleventh sermon, Asterius of Amasea described an icon in the church depicting Euphemia's martyrdom. [38] The church was restored under the patronage of the patricia and daughter of Olybrius, Anicia Juliana. [42] Pope Vigilius fled there from Constantinople during the Three-Chapter Controversy. [43] The basilica, which lay outside the walls of Chalcedon, was destroyed by the Persians in the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 during one of the Sasanian occupations of the city in 615 and 626. [44] The relics of Euphemia were reportedly translated to a new Church of St Euphemia in Constantinople in 680, though Cyril Mango argued the translation never took place. [45] [46] Subsequently, Asterius's sermon On the Martyrdom of St Euphemia was advanced as an argument for iconodulism at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. [47]

In the late 4th century, a large basilica church dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus was constructed in Ephesus in the former south stoa (a commercial basilica) of the Temple of Hadrian Olympios. [48] [49] Ephesus was the centre of the Roman province of Asia, and was the site of the city's famed Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. [50] It had also been a centre of the Imperial cult of ancient Rome in Asia Ephesus was three times declared Neocorate (Ancient Greek: νεωκόρος , romanized: neōkoros, lit. 'warden of a temple') and had constructed a Temple of the Sebastoi to the Flavian dynasty. [50] The Basilica of the Virgin Mary was probably the venue for the 431 Council of Ephesus and the 449 Second Council of Ephesus, both convened by Theodosius II. [48] At some point during the Christianisation of the Roman world, Christian crosses were cut into the faces of the colossal statues of Augustus and Livia that stood in the basilica-stoa of Ephesus the crosses were perhaps intended to exorcise demons in a process akin to baptism. [9] In the eastern cemetery of Hierapolis the 5th century domed octagonal martyrium of Philip the Apostle was built alongside a basilica church, while at Myra the Basilica of St Nicholas was constructed at the tomb of Saint Nicholas. [23]

At Constantinople the earliest basilica churches, like the 5th century basilica at the Monastery of Stoudios, were mostly equipped with a small cruciform crypt (Ancient Greek: κρυπτή , romanized: kryptḗ, lit. 'hidden'), a space under the church floor beneath the altar. [51] Typically, these crypts were accessed from the apse's interior, though not always, as at the 6th century Church of St John at the Hebdomon, where access was from outside the apse. [51] At Thessaloniki, the Roman bath where tradition held Demetrius of Thessaloniki had been martyred was subsumed beneath the 5th century basilica of Hagios Demetrios, forming a crypt. [51]

The largest and oldest basilica churches in Egypt were at Pbow, a coenobitic monastery established by Pachomius the Great in 330. [52] The 4th century basilica was replaced by a large 5th century building (36 × 72 m) with five aisles and internal colonnades of pink granite columns and paved with limestone. [52] This monastery was the administrative centre of the Pachomian order where the monks would gather twice annually and whose library may have produced many surviving manuscripts of biblical, Gnostic, and other texts in Greek and Coptic. [52] In North Africa, late antique basilicas were often built on a doubled plan. [53] In the 5th century, basilicas with two apses, multiple aisles, and doubled churches were common, including examples respectively at Sufetula, Tipasa, and Djémila. [53] Generally, North African basilica churches' altars were in the nave and the main building medium was opus africanum of local stone, and spolia was infrequently used. [53]

The Church of the East's Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was convened by the Sasanian Emperor Yazdegerd I at his capital at Ctesiphon according to Synodicon Orientale, the emperor ordered that the former churches in the Sasanian Empire to be restored and rebuilt, that such clerics and ascetics as had been imprisoned were to be released, and their Nestorian Christian communities allowed to circulate freely and practice openly. [54]

In eastern Syria, the Church of the East developed at typical pattern of basilica churches. [54] Separate entrances for men and women were installed in the southern or northern wall within, the east end of the nave was reserved for men, while women and children were stood behind. In the nave was a bema, from which Scripture could be read, and which were inspired by the equivalent in synagogues and regularised by the Church of Antioch. [54] The Council of 410 stipulated that on Sunday the archdeacon would read the Gospels from the bema. [54] Standing near the bema, the lay folk could chant responses to the reading and if positioned near the šqāqonā ("a walled floor-level pathway connecting the bema to the altar area") could try to kiss or touch the Gospel Book as it was processed from the deacons' room to the bema and thence to the altar. [54] Some ten Eastern churches in eastern Syria have been investigated by thorough archaeology. [54]

A Christian basilica was constructed in the first half of the 5th century at Olympia, where the statue of Zeus by Phidias had been noted as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World ever since the 2nd century BC list compiled by Antipater of Sidon. [55] [56] Cultural tourism thrived at Olympia and Ancient Greek religion continued to be practised there well into the 4th century. [55] At Nicopolis in Epirus, founded by Augustus to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Actium at the end of the Last war of the Roman Republic, four early Christian basilicas were built during Late Antiquity whose remains survive to the present. [57] In the 4th or 5th century, Nicopolis was surrounded by a new city wall. [57]

In Bulgaria there are major basilicas from that time like Elenska Basilica and the Red Church.

Watch the video: Misa del Vigésimo Noveno Domingo del Tiempo Ordinario - October 17, 2021 (June 2022).


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