New Wonder of the World Runner-Up: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia, an Orthodox basilica turned mosque turned museum located in Istanbul, Turkey is a Runner-Up for New Wonders of the World.  The current building is the third church built on the site.  The first church was dedicated in 360.  It and the second church were destroyed by fire.  In 532, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I began construction of a new church.  He commissioned  Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles as architects to build the “Church of the Holy Wisdom.” 

The Original Church

The Hagia Sofia which for a thousand years the largest cathedral in the world is famous for its dome and the magnificent mosaics which were completed after the church was dedicated.  The dome was damaged by several earthquakes and fires which required extensive restorations.  Materials were brought from all over the Byzantine empire. 

Interior Mosaic

Prior to 1453, the Hagia Sophia served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople (the old name for Istanbul) or a Roman Catholic Cathedral (from 1204 – 1261). When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the building was desecrated and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the church converted into a mosque. The mosaics were plastered over and the bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed and with replaced with Islamic items. Over the centuries, the Sultans maintained the structure and constructed to the exterior and interior architecture and decoration.  In 1935, it was converted to a museum by the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Extensive renovations continue as the building is assaulted by water from above (roof leaks) and below (ground water incursion) and general age.

Tomorrow, Kiyomizu-dera   Rita Bay

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