“On this day in 562, the magnificent architectural site, the Hagia Sophia, was dedicated for a second time after being destroyed by earthquakes.
Alternately used as a church, a Roman Catholic cathedral, a mosque, and finally a secular museum, the Hagia Sophia was originally dedicated in the year 360 as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral. Built on the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in what was then Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years after its construction. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture.
Designed by Greek physicist Isidore of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles, the Hagia Sophia is a giant nave covered by a soaring central dome supported by an arcade of 40 arched windows. The structure is made of stone and brick, with granite columns, marble pillars, and intricate mosaics throughout. It included materials from all over the Byzantine empire, including Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, quarried stone from Egypt, green marble from Thessaly, black stone from Bosporus, and yellow stone from Syria. Upon seeing the cathedral’s ornate materials and decorations, Justinian is said to have claimed, “”Solomon, I have outdone thee!””
But the Byzantine Empire’s jewel sustained heavy damage in the earthquakes of 553 and 557, including the great 6.4 magnitude Constantinople Earthquake. The quakes caused cracks in the main dome and eastern half-dome. After a third quake in 558, the main dome collapsed completely. The emperor ordered an immediate restoration to his empire’s jewel. Isidorus the Younger, nephew of Isidore of Miletus who designed the cathedral, was put in charge of the restoration. Isidorus used lighter materials and ribbed the dome with pendentives, making it more earthquake-resistant. He also elevated the dome by some 9 metres. To celebrate the Hagia Sophia’s restoration, Byzantine poet Paul the Silentiary composed an epic poem, which was delivered at the cathedral’s rededication, presided over by Patriarch Eutychius on this day in 562.”
Credit: © Tristan Deschamps / Alamy
Caption: The Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years after its construction.