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Hagia Sophia: Justinian’s Gift to Christianity and Wonder of the World

Hagia Sophia: Justinian’s Gift to Christianity and Wonder of the World

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Published by Sean Donovan
This paper looks at how Hagia Sophia, a 6th century masonry edifice, captures the spirit and history of Istanbul. Beyond being the pulse of the city, the argument will be made that Hagia Sophia warrants consideration as a Modern Wonder of the World.
This paper looks at how Hagia Sophia, a 6th century masonry edifice, captures the spirit and history of Istanbul. Beyond being the pulse of the city, the argument will be made that Hagia Sophia warrants consideration as a Modern Wonder of the World.

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Published by: Sean Donovan on Jun 28, 2010
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Sean DonovanARTH-007 Term Pape
Hagia Sophia:
Justinian’s Gift to Christianity and Wonder of the World
Abstract
This paper looks at how Hagia Sophia, a 6th century masonry edifice, captures the spiritand history of Istanbul. Beyond being the pulse of the city, the argument will be madethat Hagia Sophia warrants consideration as a Modern Wonder of the World. The building has uniquely stood for nearly fifteen centuries in a land notorious for religious,geopolitical, and geophysical instability. Moreover, like the original Seven Wonders of the World, Hagia Sophia possesses unprecedented architectural innovation and elaborateornamentation. The paper begins with a discussion of the founding of the ByzantineEmpire and Hagia Sophia’s origins. Next, the paper looks at the extraordinaryarchitectural skill and ingenuity that is manifested in the structure. The focus will be onHagia Sophia’s enormous dome and its earthquake resistant walls that have allowed it toremain the iconic symbol of Istanbul. Subsequently, the paper will take the reader insidethe monumental structure and highlight several renowned pieces of Byzantine andIslamic ornamentation. In the end, the reader will understand the captivating qualities of Hagia Sophia, qualities that make Hagia Sophia a Wonder of the World.
Table of Contents
I.
Introduction: Istanbul, at the Crossroads; Hagia Sophia, at the Heart……1
II.
History: Harmonizing Two of the World's Great Religions………………2
III.
Architecture: Hagia Sophia, Ahead of Its Time…………………………..6
IV.
Interior: Indescribable Beauty…………………………………………….9
V.
A Wonder of the World: Deserving a Place At the Table……………….14
 
Sean DonovanARTH-007 Term Pape
Introduction: Istanbul, at the Crossroads; Hagia Sophia, at the Heart
 If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.
1
- Alphonse de Lamartime -
Istanbul is the indisputable symbol of Turkey; however, the city has struggled toattain a single identity. Istanbul links the East and the West, reified by the colossalsuspension bridges that cross the Bosphorus, connecting Asia and Europe. In addition tofusing distinct cultures, Istanbul transcends time – the city couples the legacies of pastcivilizations with the present Republic. Due to its unique geography and history, Istanbulis one of the liveliest cities in the world.Despite contemporary Istanbul’s incredible European flavor and Turkey’s risingimportance as an economic, political, and military passage for the West into the MiddleEast and Central Asia, Turkey is frequently isolated from its European counterparts. Thecountry has been denied membership into the European Union (EU) and disenfranchiseddue to its eclectic population and heritage. According to the members of the EU, Turkeyis not culturally "European.”Though Europe has turned its back on the multidimensional Turkey, the EuropeanUnion has recognized Istanbul’s vibrancy. Ironically, for similar reasons as Turkey’sexclusion from the EU, the EU has proclaimed Istanbul a European Capital of Culture for the 2010 calendar year. The honorary title presents an opportunity for the city to highlightits cultural diversity.The title of European Capital of Culture means that thousands of additionalvisitors will flock to the city and take in its many sites. However, if visitors truly want tounderstand the complex city, it is only necessary to visit a single monument, themagnificent Byzantine Church of Hagia Sophia. Just as Istanbul exemplifies the greater 
1
Alphonse de Lamartime as cited in Orhan Pamuk,
 Istanbul 
(New York: Vintage, 2006), 63.
2
 
Sean DonovanARTH-007 Term Pape
country, Hagia Sophia exemplifies Istanbul. The church is the pulse of Istanbul, the heartof the city, and the focus of this paper.The paper begins with a brief historical background that will contextualize theextraordinary permanence of Hagia Sophia, emphasizing how the structure has been aconstant in a land notorious for political, religious, and geophysical instability. It willthen explore the extraordinary architectural ingenuity that is manifested in the structure before entering the church and highlighting its elaborate ornamentation. This examinationmakes clear the building’s status as a Modern Wonder of the World.
History: Harmonizing Two of the World's Great Religions
 Hagia Sophia is closely identified with the city… as an imperial Christian building, it proclaimed Constantinople as the capital of the Christian world. As a Muslim building, it reflected the dominance of  Islam and the Ottoman Empire. In both roles, it symbolized divine will.
2
- Professor of Art History Eugene Kleinbauer-
Approaching Istanbul by water, as travelers have done for centuries, the skyline isan overwhelming scene of domes and minarets. The formidable Blue Mosque sails by,followed by the Sultan's palace, and then the “strange ancient-futuristic form of HagiaSophia, bulking like a giant Jedi helmet cast from dark-red masonry.”
3
Today, Hagia Sophia, which stands atop the first hill of ancient Constantinople,surrounded by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn, is a museum. Inhis effort to unify the infant nation, Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey,secularized the building in 1934. But, for a majority of its lifetime, Hagia Sophia wasaffectionately glorified
 
 by two of the world's great religions, Christianity and Islam. For Christians, Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, was the home of the Orthodox faith. For Muslims, the building was Ayasofya, a divine mosque. For all, it was, as the sixth-
2
W. Eugene Kleinbauer, Antony White, and Henry Matthews,
 Hagia Sophia
(London: Scala, 2004), 7.
3
Melik Kaylan, "Masterpiece: A Beautiful Confusion; Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia seems to yearn for its past sanctity"
Wall Street  Journa
l, Eastern Edition, July 7, 2007.
3

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