Hagia Sophia – Istanbul

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Holy Mother Sofia or Hagia Sophia (from the Greek: Άγια Σοφία, «Holy Wisdom» in Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia, in Turkish: Ayasofya) is an old orthodox patriarchal basilica, later converted into a mosque and now a museum, in the City of Istanbul, Turkey.

From the date of its dedication in the year 360 and until 1453 it served as the Byzantine Orthodox cathedral of the Eastern rite of Constantinople, except in the parenthesis between 1204 and 1261 when it was converted into a Catholic cathedral of Latin rite, during the Latin patriarchate of Constantinople of the Latin Empire, founded by the Crusaders. After the Conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire, the building was transformed into a mosque, maintaining this function from May 29, 1453 to 1931, when it was secularized. On February 1, 1935, it was inaugurated as a museum.

Sometimes called Sancpta Sophia (as if it were the name of Saint Sophia), sophia is actually the phonetic Latin transcription of the Greek word «wisdom» -the full name in Greek is Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας: «Church of the Holy Wisdom of God »-.

The temple was dedicated to the Divine Wisdom, an image taken from the Book of Wisdom of the Old Testament and which refers to the personification of the wisdom of God or second person of the Holy Trinity. His feast is celebrated on December 25, the anniversary of the incarnation of the Word or Logos in Christ.

Famous for its huge dome, it is considered to be the epitome of Byzantine architecture, and it is said that it «changed the history of architecture.» It was the cathedral with the largest surface in the world for almost a thousand years, until the work of the cathedral of Seville was completed in 1520. The current building was rebuilt between 532 and 537 to be used as a church, by order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, being the third church of the Holy Wisdom built on that same site. The design is the work of the architect and physicist Ionian Isidoro de Mileto and the mathematician and architect lidio Antemio de Tralles.

The church contains a large collection of relics of saints, and had a 15-meter silver iconostasis. It was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for almost a thousand years. In this church, Cardinal Humberto excommunicated Miguel I Cerulario in 1054; act that is commonly considered as the beginning of the Great Schism.

In 1453 Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under the orders of Sultan Mehmed II, who later decided that the temple would become a mosque. The bells, the altar, the iconostasis and the sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were plastered. During the Ottoman rule, Islamic architectural details were added, such as the mihrab, the minbar and four minarets. The building remained a mosque until 1931, when it was closed to the public by the government of Turkey until its reopening, as a museum, in 1935.

Istanbul’s main mosque for nearly 500 years, Hagia Sophia served as a model for many other Ottoman mosques, such as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque – also known as the Blue Mosque of Istanbul -, the Sehzade Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque and the Kiliç Ali Pasha mosque.

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