Monday, August 21, 2017


Sultanahmet, Fatih - İstanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'28.0"N 28°58'44.6"E / 41.007789, 28.979059


Hagia Sophia's Dome

The most important difference in Hagia Sophia’s architectural design is that its size and measurements are much larger than other churches, and the central dome is much bigger and higher. The dome that is over the central space is 55.60 m. from ground level, 31.87 m. from North to South and 30.87 m. from East to West. When constructing Hagia Sophia, architects have used marble, stone and special bricks that were light yet durable, specially made of Rhodes soil.

The dome that appeared compressed and spread out when it was first constructed, has been damaged in August 553 and December 557 due to earthquakes and in May 7, 558 the Eastern part of the dome has completely fallen apart. The renovation of the dome has been carried out by İsidoros’ nephew, young İsidoros. İsidoros has solved the problem by installing support systems through external braces and assisted the structure by adding forty windows and increasing the lenght of the dome by seven meters to make it smaller and lighter.

Hagia Sophia has survived a big fire in 859 and an earthquake in 869. The dome has collapsed after an earthquake in 989 and has been repaired. Due to the earthquakes in 1344 and 1346 a part of the dome and parts of the arch have collapsed and have been repaired.

The renovation process that has started by Fatih Sultan Mehmed during the Ottoman period has been continued by the following Sultans as well. The most important repair conducted in Hagia Sophia was by Sultan Abdulmecid’s (1839-1861) orders in 1847-1849 by the Swiss Fossati brothers. This repair included the filling of large cracks on the dome as well as securing the dome’s rim by implementing steel circles. During the renovations, one of the most important calligraphist’s of his time, Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi has written the 35th verse of the quran on the main dome.

Calligraphic Panes of Hagia Sophia

Great Calligraphic Panes
The great rounded calligraphic panes on the walls of the main place had been written by Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi who was one of the famous calligraphers during the repairs between 1847 and 1849 of Sultan Abdülmecid period (1839-1861). Rounded calligraphic panes with 7.5 meters of diameter are written by gilt on green background made of hemp. There are 8 of these panes containing the names of Allah, Muhammad, and the four caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali as well as the grandsons of Muhammad, namely Hasan and Husayn. The wooden hangers of the panes are made of lime since it is light and durable. The calligraphic panes are the largest ones in the Islamic world.

Calligraphic Panes in Altar Section
There are calligraphic panes belonging to Ottoman Sultans on the right wall of the altar in Hagia Sophia.  The writers of these panes in top down order:

1st calligraphic pane, Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839)
2nd calligraphic pane, Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839)
3rd calligraphic pane, Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730)
4th calligraphic pane, Sultan Mustafa II (1695-1703)
5th calligraphic pane, Sultan Mustafa II (1695-1703)

As for the left wall of the altar, there are panes written by the famous calligraphers of the day. The left one is written by Calligrapher Mehmed Esad Yesari (1797), while the right one is written by Calligrapher Veliyyüddin Efendi who was the chief religious official as well.

Ceramics of Hagia Sophia

Ceramics around the Altar
“Ayetü'l Kürsi “ the 255th verse of Bakara Sura is written by polished thuluth (celi sülüs) on the cobalt blue ceramic belt surrounding all along the wall behind the altar. A script of "Ketebehu El Fakir Muhammed 1016" is written in a red rosette with white contour at the end of ceramic belt.

There are ceramic panes in the narthexes at the left and right of the altar. There is ceramic panel on the left narthex with plant patterns belonging to Old Sultan’s Loge contains İznik ceramics dated to 16th century. There are two portrayals on the pane in the right narthex. One of them is the portrayal of Kaabe in eight pieces; the other one is demonstrating the Tomb of Muhammad. It has been understood that, Turkish ceramics art had been reached its peak point in 16th and 17th centuries.

Ceramic in the Library of Sultan Mahmud I
The ceramic used in the Library of Sultan Mahmud I are the best examples of İznik, Kütahya and Tekfur Workshops within 16th - 18th centuries. There is ceramic pane containing flower, rose, carnation, tulip and cypress in the corridor combining the reading room of the library to the place of which the books are stored (Hazine-i Kütüb). The sultan signature of Sultan Mahmud I figured on porphyry is located on the east wall of the library’s reading room. The scripture of “Kelime-Tevhid” (faith declaration) is written on the ceramic frieze of the signature, while the scriptures of “Besmele, Haşr Sura 22nd verse and the beginning of 23rd verse” and “The Beautiful Names of Allah Esma-Ül Hüsna” are written in white polished thuluth (celi sülüs) on indigo-blue background.

Ceramic in the Sultan Tombs
The inner part of the Tomb of Sultan Selim II is decorated with the most beautiful ceramics of the 16th century. “Bakara Sura” and "Ayetü'l Kürsi" is written in white polished thuluth (celi sülüs) on dark blue background on the ceramic belt entirely surrounding the tomb through the upper part of the lower window.

There are ceramic panes at both sides of the entrance door with purple, red, green, blue flower patterns on white background. The alcoves of the white background panes in rectangular frames are filled with red, green, and blue peonies, leafs, and flowers; the elliptic medallion with dark blue background in the middle is decorated with sprays. There are ceramic with cloud patterns on red background on the articles designed on the corners.

These panels are the most beautiful examples of 16th century ceramics, while the left one is the imitation of the original. It is known that, it had been taken away for restoration to France in 1895 by an ancient collector Albert Sorlin Dorigny, a dentist in Istanbul who was the dentist of Sultan Abdülhamit II as well, however an imitation was mounted in the place of the original which is now exhibited in “Arts of Islam” section of Louvre Museum with the inventory number of 3919/2-265.

The inner part of the Tomb of Sultan Murad III is decorated with 16th century İznik ceramics. The coral red ceramics here are significant with respect to being produced by only a single generation of İznik Ceramics Workshop in Ottoman era. The production secret had not been found afterwards. There is a scripture of “Mülk Sura 1-22nd Ayat” in polished thuluth (celi sülüs) calligraphy on blue background in the tomb. The surface beneath the ceramic belt is decorated with roses, tulips, hyacinths, gillyflowers, lily leafs and clouds in various colors.

There is an interesting ceramic pane in terms of color and composition outside the tomb which is creation of Architect Davud Agha. There is a rosette attracting attention mainly blue over a white background. Garnets, poniard leaves, and peony portrayals are completing this structure.

The inner part of the Tomb of Sultan Mehmet III is decorated with İznik ceramics dared to the beginning of the 17th century. There is scripture of “Besmele and Cum’a Sura” polished thuluth (celi sülüs) calligraphy on a blue background.

As one of the major elements of the traditional mosque architecture, altar is a recessed segment in mosques, prayer rooms, and outdoor prayer areas which is higher than surroundings and faced to the direction of Mecca that imam having community behind him stands in front of it during prayer. Ottoman Sultans made some repairs and additions to the altar in the southeast of the main place of the traditional Hagia Sophia Museum.

The altar of the Hagia Sophia renovated in the 19th century is a marble example having a polygonal alcove decorated with a decorative figure of the sun and stars covered by a half-domed mesh. Plenty of gilts are used in the altar encircled by a wide border decorated with acanthus leafs with convoluted branches and it has an imposing cap stone.

The candelabras are places at both sides of the altar brought from the court church of the Hungarian King Matthias I by the Grand Vizier İbrahim Pasha during the conquest of Buda by the Hungary run in the era of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Minbar is a pulpit in the mosque where the imam (leader of prayer) stands to deliver sermons on Fridays. Minbar is at right hand side of the altar in Hagia Sophia and build in the period of Sultan Murad III. It is one of the best marble workmanship of 16th century Ottoman era.

Sultan’s Loge
Sultans’s Loge, also called as Imperial Loge, are special locations for Sultan’s prayers in mosques, since sultans perform Friday and Festival prayers as well as night payers in Holy nights in the Major mosque of the city.

There is no information regarding the location and creator of the first Sultan’s Loge in Hagia Sophia. Today’s Sultan’s Loge is at the left side of the altar and annexed to the structure by Fossati Brothers during the renovations performed between 1847 and 1849. Sultan’s Loge consists of a hexagonal section on a number of five columns and a corridor again on columns. Its lower part has a marble hemstitched banister panel, while the upper part is a gilded wooden cage. The ceiling of the loge is decorated with hand-drawn plant patterns.

Muezzin’s Loge
Muezzin’s Loge is the section in the same direction of Mecca which the Muezzin go up on it and prays during prayers and other worships. A large Muezzin’s Loge had been built at the east of the main place in Murat III period, however since the place is so large and the community is too crowded, four more Muezzin’s Loges had been appended in the structure. The Muezzin Loges are in harmony with the main structure and reflecting the best examples of the marble workmanship of 16th century Ottoman era.

Omphalion is the location where the coronation of every Emperor took place in East-Roman Era and a special section with a group of circular marble slabs with various colors and dimensions and decorations in opus sectile styles in junctures.

The Library of Mahmud I
One of the most significant annexes to the structure is the library built by Sultan Mahmud I between the two buttresses on the south of the structure. This section consists of the reading hall, the main place, Hazine-i Kütüb (place where the books are preserved) and the corridor and the stony ground combining these sections. It is separated from the main place by a bronze grid carries by 6 columns. The bronze grid is decorated with flowers and branch convolutions. There is scripture of “Ya Fettah” on the two-leafed door of the library and there are two door handles.

“Ya Fettah” is one of the 99 names of Allah and means “the one who opens the doors of goodness and livelihood and makes things easier”. It is frequently used on the handles of the doors in Ottoman Era. There is a porphyry signature of Sultan Mahmud I inlayed to marble on the east wall of the reading room.

The corridor combining the reading room and Hazine-i Kütüb (place where the books are preserved) is decorated with ceramics belonging to 18th century İznik, Kütahya and Tekfur workshops with flower, rose, gillyflower and cypress patterns. The wooden book cabinets in the library section are made of rose wood. The library where Sultan Mahmud I and the leading persons of the day donated books have approximately 5000 books which have been transferred to Süleymaniye Library and is preserved here under the name of “Hagia Sophia Special Collection”.

There are low, small, narrow and wooden tables decorated by mother-of-pearl inlay work technique which are used for reading and writing and a number of two Koran casings coated with mother-of-pearl and tusk.

Private Sections (Maksure)
Hagia Sophia had been utilized for not only religious purposes but also as an educational center. The community was lectured here for religious and scientific topics by the prominent ecclesiastics and scientists of the day out of prayer hours. There are private wooden sections in the structure for these purposes called as maksure. There are a total of 11 private sections (maksure) in Hagia Sophia.

Marble Cubes
Two pieces of cubes made of monolithic marbles at the lateral naves in the building belong to Hellenistic Period (BC 330-30) and had been brought from Bergama antique city. These cubes have been brought to Hagia Sophia in the period of Sultan Murad III (1574-1595) and can contain 1250 liters of liquid in average. They had been used for distributing juice to the public for holy nights and celebration prayers in the mosque period. The cubes have taps at their lower parts for consuming water in other days.

Wishing Column
There is a column with a hole in the middle covered by bronze plates at the northwest of the building which was also named as the perspiring column or the wishing column. In some references, it is indicated that this column had become blessed in due course among community. Rumors appeared in East-Roman period that it had a healing effect on humans. The legend has it that, Emperor Justinian wandering in the building with a severe headache leaned his head to this column and after a while he realized that the headache was gone.

This story had been heard among the public and the rumor regarding the healing effect of the column got around. Hence, people believed that they would get better if they put their fingers into that hole on the column and then rub them to the place where disease is felt. According to another legend, this wetness is described as the tear of Virgin Mary.

As for the Ottoman period, when the Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque, Fatih Sultan Mehmed and his retinue prostrated themselves for the first friday prayer by the imamate of Master Akşemseddin, however, they had no matter be able to start the prayer, since the direction of the building was not faced to Kaaba. There is a rumor that, Deus Ex Machina appeared just at that moment and tried to turn the building to face Kaaba, but he was witnessed by a citizen, so he had to disappear without being able to turn the mosque. As for today, people make their wishes by rotating their thumb a complete clockwise tour inside the hole.

Gravestone of Commandant Enrico Dandolo
In face of Mosaic of the Deesis, there is the gravestone of Commandant Enrico Dandolo the Doge of Venice who commanded the 4th crusade and died in Istanbul in 1205 when he was 70 years old. No foundlings regarding to grave have been encountered in researches.

Viking scripture in Hagia Sophia.
There is a scripture come down to Vikings on the marble banisters in the middle section of the south galleria. The scripture determined to belong to the 9th century contains a sentence meaning "Halvdan was here". The scripture is supposed to be made by a Viking mercenary in East-Roman period. A group of Vikings who was famous with their warrior nature had been participated to the imperial guard regiment in İstanbul which was mainly constituted by them which was called as "Varangian". This regiment built a reputation by fighting on behalf of the court in every region of the empire for approximately 200 years.

The Emperor Door
It is the largest door of Hagia Sophia dated to 6th century, which provides passing to the main structure from the inner narthex section. The Emperor door is 7 meters in length and made of oak and has a bronze frame. The leaves of the door are coated by bronze plates. The door had been used only by the Emperor and his retinue. East-Roman references says the door could be made of the woods of Noah's ark or the wood of the chest of which the Jewish holy plates kept in.


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