What can be said about the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul? Very simple: what It is one of the most important architectural works that the human being has ever done.. So resounding. If someone travels to the Turkish city, they will find one of the cities with the most heritage on the planet. But nothing would be the same if the Basilica of Hagia Sophia or Ayasofia, as they call it in Turkey, had not been built there almost 1,500 years ago.
The dome of the Basilica of Hagia Sophia
The importance in the history of universal architecture that the Basilica of Santa Sofía has, above all, is due to the incredible construction of its dome. Few domes in all of history can be compared in relevance. Perhaps the Pantheon of Agrippa in Imperial Rome and the great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
By the way, both are in Rome, one is before and the other after the Basilica of Santa Sofía. And it is not a coincidence, since the city that at the time inherited the accolade of imperial capital of old Rome was Byzantiumthe name by which Istanbul was known in ancient times.
a byzantine work
The construction of the Hagia Sophia dates back to that time, since it was ordered to be built by the great Byzantine emperor: Justinian. Specifically, It was built between the years 532 and 537, following the guidelines of the architects Antemio de Tralles and Isidoro de Mileto.
They were the ones who knew how to merge in the same construction the idea of a basilica and a Greek cross temple. It also went from a square base to the idea of a circle in height. Namely, it has at the same time three naves and an apse.
While, the core element is a grandiose dome over 30 meters in diameter which is supported by an ingenious system of buttresses, pendentives and quarter sphere vaults. It is quite a technical feat, and even more so if we think that we are talking about the 6th century. Without a doubt, other buildings in the world and in the city itself, such as the beautiful Blue Mosque, inherited this structure.
Today it is a mosque
The Basilica of Hagia Sophia was built as a Christian temple, but due to the vicissitudes of the history of Turkey, a country mostly of Muslim religion, the temple became a mosque many centuries ago. Specifically, in the days when Istanbul was called Constantinople and was the capital of the powerful Ottoman empire that has bequeathed so many buildings, such as the rich Topkapi Palace.
That is the reason for certain details that you will observe on your visit to the Basilica of Santa Sofía. For a start, tall minarets can be seen from the outside. They are large towers that were built in Ottoman times so that the faithful were called to prayer from there.
And once inside, too large inscriptions are seen in arabic or carpets covering the floor, among other elements that indicate that we are in a mosque.
The unique and wonderful interior of the Hagia Sophia
Regardless of its religious use, from an artistic point of view it is an incredible building. While from the outside it seems austere, with hardly any decorative elements that hide its entire construction structure, when we enter its sacred space it will leave us speechless.
To begin with, because the entire lower part of the dome is pierced with windows thanks to its low weight, since porous materials and tiles were used. The fact is that the strong sunlight enters through those windows and an optical effect is created in which the dome seems to float on a luminous ring.
It is something unreal that is even more pronounced thanks to the different lighting effects of the light on the intense golden decoration of the walls.
In short, whoever travels to Istanbul clearly has many monuments to see, many purchases to do in places like the Grand Bazaar or fantastic activities to do such as sailing on the Bosphorus. But surely youne of the obligations on a trip to the Turkish city is to marvel at Hagia Sophia.