When was the Hagia Sophia first built and by whom?
The historical structure “Hagia Sophia,” which has attracted attention for standing for centuries despite all natural disasters, wars, and conflicts and has served both as a church and a mosque.
What is the literal meaning of Hagia Sophia?
The literal meaning of Hagia Sophia is “Holy Wisdom.” In Greek, it is Ἁγία Σοφία, formerly known as the Church of the Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia Museum, and now officially referred to as Ayasofya-i Kebir Cami-i Şerifi (Great Hagia Sophia Mosque).
Did you know that Hagia Sophia was built three times at the same location?
Hagia Sophia has been built three times on the same spot. Construction of the first structure, a basilica made of wood, began in 360 AD but was burnt down as a result of an uprising. It was then rebuilt by Emperor Theodosius II in 415 AD. The ascension of Emperor Justinian to the throne and the subsequent Nika Revolt led to the burning of the second Hagia Sophia. In 532 AD, by Justinian’s order, the construction of the world’s grandest place of worship at the time began. The structure was built relatively quickly for its time, taking just five years from 532 to 537 AD, by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the historic peninsula, the old city center of İstanbul. The grandeur of this building holds significant importance for Christians; its prominence stems from being the largest church constructed in İstanbul by the Eastern Roman Empire.
First Hagia Sophia
The construction of the Hagia Sophia Church was initiated by Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, who declared Christianity the official religion of the empire. It was completed by his son, Constantius II, who reigned from 337 to 361. The inauguration of the Hagia Sophia Church took place on 15 February 360, officiated by Constantius II.
The first Hagia Sophia Church was called Magna Ecclesia in Latin and Megálē Ekklēsíā (Μεγάλη Ἐκκλησία) in Greek, both meaning “Great Church.” The first Hagia Sophia was an extraordinary structure, designed in the traditional Latin architectural style as a columned basilica with a wooden roof, and featured an atrium in front. However, it was severely damaged on 20 June 404 during the riots that followed the exile of Patriarch John Chrysostom of Constantinople, due to his conflict with Empress Aelia Eudoxia, the wife of Emperor Arcadius.
Throughout the Byzantine Empire’s reign, Hagia Sophia served as the cathedral where emperors were crowned and functioned as the capital’s largest church.
There are various intriguing legends associated with Hagia Sophia.
Evliya Çelebi, who described the origin of İstanbul’s name, its historic buildings, walls, districts, gates, monoliths, enchanted places on land and sea, recreation areas, vineyards, gardens, mines, and waters, also included legends about the city’s establishment in his writings.
According to Evliya Çelebi in his Book of Travel, King Solomon founded İstanbul. Çelebi claims that Solomon stopped at Sarayburnu and built a place of worship there, praying, “May it be prosperous and festive as long as the world endures.”
He lists rulers after Solomon including his son Ruhbaam, Yanko son of Madyan, Alexander, Pozantin, Roman Caesar, Yanko Vizondan, Yafur son of Vizondan, and Constantine.
Evliya Çelebi emphasized that precious stones from the “seven climates” of the world were used in the construction of Hagia Sophia. He documented his knowledge on the subject by writing, “Various marbles of astonishing colors and patterns from the seven climates were transported by ships. Craftsmen and masters, skilled like Ferhat, carved and smoothed them. They exerted such tremendous effort that they completed half of the mosque in seven years.”
For more information and a realistic experience of the Hagia Sophia Mosque, you can purchase tickets from the Hagia Sophia Historical Museum ticket sales points or immediately online at demmuseums.com CLICK HERE to buy a ticket.