There are places that do not form part of everyday life. Places where something higher reigns and the breath of history sweeps the air. One such place is the Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom in Istanbul, …the former Constantinople, …the former Byzantium. Together with religious buildings such as the Church of Mary of Loreto, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Cathedral of Aachen and the Hieronymus Monastery in Lisbon, the Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful and atmospheric churches in the world. This despite the fact that after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks it was consecrated as a mosque – or perhaps just because of it.
Today, the mighty interior of the church is a mystic puzzle in which the ancient signs of the Christian faith can be traced beneath the Muslim decorations. The signs that both religions share can also be discovered, such as those of the six-winged Seraphim angels, which are holy to both and whose overpainted faces were only uncovered again in 2010, since Islam forbids the depiction of faces. If you are searching for more secrets, you can also seek to spot the mysterious runic inscription carved by a pilgrim in one of the railings of the South Gallery or think about why the Hagia Sophia is the only of the old large churches without a crypt. At least, searches for it have so far been in vain and trips into nearby wells did not bring any results. But perhaps it does exist, if you believe the legend that there are secret rooms in the church and that the last patriarch of the church disappeared in one of the walls of the church when the Turkish invaded the city in 1453 and was never seen again.
The Hagia Sophia was built between 532 and 537 A.D. and is the last late antique great church and the only almost perfectly preserved room of power from the time of ancient Rome, a building without a model and without true imitators in its uniqueness. Its dome, which collapsed in its first version, remains with its original span of 33 metres to this day the largest brick dome in architectural history, erected over only four supporting points. Thanks to this, the Hagia Sophia is regarded as one of the most important buildings of all times.
On the right-hand side of her Naos, the central room, the Omphalion symbolizes the centre of the earth, the proverbial “navel of the world” that this church once formed. Today the Hagia Sophia is a museum.
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