Living Science: Hagia Sophia

Topics: Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia has seen a lot of history. The Byzantine inspiration has been standing for 2,555 years. It has been given different stories and symbolism throughout time according to those who called Constantinople and, later, Istanbul home.

Initially, the Hagia Sophia was built as a court church. Emperor Justinian and his Empress Theodora worshipped there. They built it after the Nika revolt. Their power as a reigning couple was maintained and the Hagia Sophia was one of four major buildings commissioned after the revolt, perhaps as a show of that retained power.

Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus were the two main architects commissioned by Justinian to construct the Hagia Sophia. It was so well-built that it is still studied today.

Over time, the Hagia Sophia has stood as a Christian hallmark and an Islamic mosque. That sentence alone implies the dangers the Hagia Sophia has been in, Christianity and Islam have been at war at many different times. Even now, both peoples claim it.

Perhaps the fact that the Christians did not give up in seeing it as theirs and the Muslims happily claimed it as theirs as well is why neither group let it be destroyed or took to razing it themselves. Across time there are burnt remains, the outlines of toppled walls, and remnants of destroyed buildings of similar significance, scale, and stature; yet the Hagia Sophia remains.

How did the Hagia Sophia time travel? How did it manage to last and still be standing today? People repaired it when it fell apart, it was so loved.

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What made the Hagia Sophia so loveable? Or was it love that did it? Perhaps power instead? Perhaps the materials used made it nearly impossible to eliminate. Or was it the grand scale that stopped people from destroying it? Perhaps the artistry, geometry, and marvelous engineering that made the Hagia Sophia stand were what kept scholars advising leaders not to tear it down. Does the fact it is laced with treasure keep it standing or does that also make us marvel as to why it wasn’t destroyed for looting purposes like the ancient pyramids in Egypt? Perhaps there is a combination of all of these reasons throughout different points in history where the Hagia Sophia was in peril. In studying what kept the Hagia Sophia erect for 2,555 years, there is a lesson for the architect of today who wants to build something that will last across millennia. Is there a formula? Is it a formula or one simple thing that saved the Hagia each time? The potential formula will reveal what people value in architecture. People across time, with different religious and life views, and different access to technological advancement have all found the Hagia Sophia worth saving. Perhaps gaining that knowledge and applying it today is all that is needed to ensure architecture lasts.

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Living Science: Hagia Sophia. (2022, May 14). Retrieved from

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