Hagia Sophia - Istanbul / Turkey

Istanbul – Article Series: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is the latest masterpiece of the classical Roman architecture. Meanwhile none of its architects were originally architects by job; neither were they through later periods. Of its two creators of Aegean, Anthemius was a great mathematician, Isidorus a master of geometry. Both were experts in mathematics, geometry and mechanical engineering, and they were scientists in principle. We have to make a brainstorming on why Justinian the Emperor gave such a job of unprecedented dimensions to those that were just men of science.

In Istanbul, where is on the earthquake belt, Hagia Sophia took the first blow 20 years after its construction. The eastern part of the main dome and the semidome on the east came down. Being repaired by Isidorus the Young in more than 4 years Hagia Sophia underwent its first intervention and change thereby. In 869, 994 and 1344 the temple had several destructions due to quakes, yet was restored each time. Just because of that there had been 24 buttresses built in total during the times of the Romans and the Ottomans for sujşporting the temple. When Istanbul was grasped by the Ottomans in 1453, this great masterpiece was also left into the hands of the Turks. Many oi the sultans made various additions and showed serious attempts for the repair of the building. Those supports done by Sinan the Architect during the reigns oE Sultan Selim II and Murad III are some of them to be remembered And there found other architects who did a tough repair for this very sanctuary. But it was the first time in Sultan Abdulmajid’s reign that the job was handed over a foreigner, Gaspare Fossati and his team.

Detail from Deisis Mosaic - Hagia Sophia
Detail from Deisis Mosaic – Hagia Sophia

It is a fact that there are differences between the techniques and ideologies of restoration in Turkey as well as in the world. Without doubt Sultan Majid had a scrupulous pick for the repair of such a sacred and historic temple.

Yet in this selection, Sultan took not only the abovementioned differences in view, but also the political, religious and economic milieu of that time.

It is obvious that the various applications of painting techniques done by Fossati throughout the whole job throw light on a significant period in terms of documentation and presentation. In vain he waited for help from the Architectural Academy of Petersburg (which he was in contact) and the tsar to be able to publish at least a small part of those works he had done. Fortunately his call was answered by the Noble Sultan Abdulmajid.

Seraphim - Hagia Sophia / Istanbul
Seraphim – Hagia Sophia / Istanbul

Hagia Sophia was first opened in 15 June, 360. It had been one of the most important sanctuaries for the Christian world until the conquest of Istanbul by Mehmed II. Following the incidence it was turned into a mosque as an Islamic tradition and the first Juma Prayer was performed with Akşemseddins leading. From this date on it became the “Grand Mosque” of the city. Along with lots of people assigned for jobs relevant, Mehmed the Conqueror endowed a great deal of foundations for the upkeep expenses.

Periodically restoring the building the Ottomans kept it stout until this day. Sultan Bayezid II had a minaret erected, and while assigning Sinan the Architect for the amendment of the edifice, Selim II had another minaret built. Sinan reinforced the walls with buttresses and made the garden design. And there were tombs built for Sultan Selim II; and others followed for Murad III, Mehmed III, Mustafa I and Sultan Ibrahim. After the restoration works in 1717 and 1733 a fountain, primary school, a soup kitchen and a library were constructed in 1739. Sultan Mahmud II had the mosque extensively renovated. Then during the reign of Sultan Abdulmajid the mosque was in a dire need of repair. And the Sultan designated Gaspare Fossati the Architect for the job. For the labour almost 800 people actively worked. It was restored from top to bottom and to aesthetically enrich the building the calligraphic plates of the Sacred Name of Allah, the Prophet, the Four Caliphs and the two grandsons of the Prophet, namely Hasan and Husein, by Kazasker Mustafa Izzet Effendi were hung. An imperial tribune and a clockroom were the newly added parts.

The Weeping Column - Hagia-Sophia / Instanbul
The Weeping Column – Hagia-Sophia / Instanbul

Following his arrival in Istanbul, Fossati raised several public buildings. Among them can be numbered the Russian Embassy, the Hospital of Babi Seraskeri (Ministry of War), the Headquarters of Lemon Port, the Audience Hall of the Sublime Port, the University (Darülfünun), the National Archives Building and the Industrial School (Mektebi Sanayi). Of the restoration of Hagia Sophia he speaks as the most significant project of his life. Though he wished to publish the pictures of the mosaics revealed during the repair, he could not. Then he prepared 25 drawings inside and outside of the building. And in 1852, he issued those in book form in London. The album, though in different types and sizes, was printed 380 issues in total.

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