Ten Cool Facts: Hagia Sophia
The first of a series of blogs spotlighting some of the marvels I’ve come across as I’ve travelled the world researching my books. There’ll be a contest with each blog so watch out for a chance to win book prizes!
The glorious Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) is regarded by many as the eighth wonder of the world. No-one visiting this icon of antiquity will fail to be overwhelmed with its atmosphere of ageless beauty and astonishing dimensions.
- Hagia Sophia dominated the Constantinople skyline for near a thousand and a half years and could be seen from many miles out to sea, a breath-taking vision in marble. It remains a major landmark to this day.
2. Originally dedicated to the Wisdom of God (the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity), Hagia Sophia translates from the Greek as ‘sacred wisdom’. In Latin it was known as the Church of Sancta Sapientia.
3. The current basilica is the third holy structure to stand on the site. The first and second ones burned to the ground.
4. Hagia Sophia was completed in 537 AD; at that time Constantinople was the world’s largest city.
- Its creators were two of the most respected minds of their day: Anthemius of Tralles, an engineer and a mathematician and Isidorus of Miletus, an architect.
6. The dome, curving 110 feet from east to west, soars 180 feet above the marble floor. The sixth century historian Procopius marvelled that ‘it does not appear to rest upon a solid foundation, but to cover the place beneath as though it were suspended from heaven by the fabled golden chain.’
7. Commissioned by the great Emperor Justinian I, Hagia Sophia was built in just six years. One hundred master builders supervised 10,000 workers in its construction.
8. Justinian wished to build an edifice to rival the legendary Solomon’s Temple. When he finally entered the finished building he uttered the words, ‘Solomon, I’ve surpassed you!’
9. For hundreds of years Hagia Sophia was the largest shrine in the world; today its dome is the fourth largest in the world after St Paul’s in London, St Peter’s in Rome and Florence’s Duomo.
10. In the twenty-first century Hagia Sophia entwines the beliefs of medieval Christianity, the Ottoman Empire, Islam and modern secular Turkey.
Hagia Sophia is now the Ayasofya Museum, open every day except Mondays.
My historical epic The Silk Tree is set in the time of Justinian. For a chance to win a signed copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of Justinian’s wife.
First two correct entries drawn on Feb 1 win!
Hagia Sophia external image: By Arild Vågen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons; Hagia Sophia internal image: By Ronan Reinart (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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