Sean DonovanARTH-007 Term Paper
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.
- 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.”
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-
W. Eugene Kleinbauer, Antony White, and Henry Matthews,
(London: Scala, 2004), 7.
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.