Haghia Sophia


Location;. Multimap

When the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th Century, the east, centred on Constantinople, continued for almost 1000 years, at one point reconquering a large part of the western empire. However in 1453 the city was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet. Renamed Istanbul (a Turkish corruption of "Stanpoli"; an abbreviated Greek name for Constantinople) it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire for almost 500 years.


Description; While Britain languished in the so called Dark Ages, the Constantinopolian or Byzantine empire was enjoying a golden age. The Haghia Sophia was built in 532AD by the emperor Justinian on the ruins of an earlier foundation.

Haghia Sophia is the Greek form of The Church of The Holy Wisdom. For many centuries it was the largest enclosed space in the world and was the inspiration for many churches throughout Europe; San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy and Aachen Cathedral in Germany being two examples. The minarets and Islamic symbols were added after the Ottoman conquest and the church was converted into a mosque. The large enclosed space was ideal for the Muslim form of worship and therefore served as a model for subsequent mosques in Istanbul and around the Islamic world. The building is now a museum.







A high point of Byzantine art was in mosaics. The Haghia Sophia interior was completely covered in mosaics until the period known as the Iconoclasm, when all forms of human & animal depiction was banned, probably a pious response to similar customs in the emerging disciplines of Islam. However, a later enlightenment revoked this and the mosaics were restored.




However, after the Ottoman conquest, the mosaics were again covered and remained so throughout its life as a mosque. Later restorations have revealed some magnificent samples.


This picture shows evidence of Vikings in Constantinople. As the protective perspex inscription shows, someone called Halvdan produced this graffiti sometime in 9th Century. The Vikings were well known for navigating deep inland via large rivers and dragging boats across land between rivers, so would have reached Constantinople from the Baltic, probably entering the Black Sea via Kiev on the River Dnieper. King Harald Hardrada of Norway, who invaded England in 1066 and was beaten at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, is known to have spent time in the Byzantine Imperial Guard.

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All Photographs by the author.