In the 16th century, Mimar Sinan, the Ottoman era's unquestioned finest architect, constructed supporting blocks and minarets around Hagia Sophia, bolstering her dome and improving its durability. But many believe that Sinan also designed those elements of the building - including the great dome - who knows? Maybe he was only inspired by foreign architects or designers.
Hagia Sophia was built between 1451 and 1461 as part of the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. The project was commissioned by Mehmed II, the first sultan of the Ottoman dynasty. The aim was to create a place where Christians could be converted to Islam and Muslims could find peace with God. Construction lasted more than 30 years and involved many thousands of people. It is estimated that up to three million tonnes of stone were used in its construction.
Hagia Sophia is one of the largest church buildings in the world and it remains an important religious site for Christians, Muslims, and Jews today. It is considered the greatest architectural achievement of its time and has been described as a "global icon" because of its unique design and massive scale. The building of Hagia Sophia marked the high point of Ottoman architecture and artistry.
Architect Sinan erected the Suleymaniye Mosque under Sultan Suleyman's orders. The Suleymaniye complex combines Islamic and Byzantine architectural features. It blends tall, thin minarets with massive domed structures supported by half-domes in the style of Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine cathedral. This is because Constantinople was once again ruled by Muslims and they wanted to show that Islam and Christianity could live together in peace.
In addition, the dome of the Suleymaniye Mosque is also supported by eight large columns with very beautiful carved capitals. They resemble those of the Hagia Sophia but are actually unique for their time.
The similarity between these two great buildings is indeed striking. Both were designed by masters of their trade who had extensive knowledge of classical architecture and both were an immediate success with their audiences. But while the Hagia Sophia is still used for Catholic worship today, the Suleymaniye Mosque is only used for Muslim prayer.
The large interiors of the Hagia Sophia were adorned artistically with huge marble pillars, precious mosaics, and other coverings, making it one of the greatest remaining architectural wonders of the Byzantine period. The two marble archangels, Gabriel and Michaes, may still be seen there. They stand at opposite ends of the nave and were probably carved in one piece with a single mason's effort. Their faces are nearly identical, but otherwise they might not be aware of this since each holds a golden chalice.
The decoration and architecture of the interior of the church reflected that of the palace for which it was originally designed. It is believed that artists from all over the empire came to work on the magnificent decorations which cover every inch of the building. A mosaicist named Romanus was responsible for many of the scenes depicted within the church. He worked between 1025 and 1045 AD and used images and stories from the Bible as inspiration for his work.
In addition to Romanus, other famous artists who worked on the cathedral include Michael Psellos, who was an important minister during the reign of Constantine XI Palaeologus; Andronikos Kontostavlos, who did much to restore the palace after its destruction by the Turks; and Pantelis Thomopoulos, who completed the dome in 1451.
For more than 900 years, Hagia Sophia was the most significant edifice in the Eastern Christian world: the seat of the Orthodox patriarch, the Orthodox equivalent of the Pope in Roman Catholicism, as well as the principal church of the Byzantine emperors, whose palace lay nearby.
Built between 532 and 537 by the Emperor Justinian I, it is regarded as one of the greatest achievements of early medieval architecture and sculpture. The building was dedicated as a cathedral in 638 but was converted into a mosque in 1453 after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. It remains so today.
Hagia Sophia is important for Christians because it is considered a symbol of the power and glory of Christianity over other religions. In addition, the location of the holy trinity in a single place for almost 1000 years from its construction in the 4th century until its conversion into a mosque in 1453 is also significant.
After the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the death of Justinian I, no new major churches were built for centuries until the Renaissance brought about a revival. However, even during this period, small chapel rooms within larger buildings were being used instead, since the population was too small arid the wealth of most people was too low for them to be able to build large churches like Hagia Sophia again.