Hagia Sophia

Department Archive
Collection Byzantine Research Fund
Reference No. BRF/02/01/07/113
Level Item
Place Hagia Sophia
Dates 1888-1890
Donor/Creator Weir Schultz, Mr Robert
Barnsley, Mr Sidney Howard
Scope and Content Galleries (south-west corner bay)-Column with ionic impost capital. Further annotation in pencil survives. See also no. 02/10/26/02 (BRF no 02/01/07/112).
Further information The church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), a key monument for Byzantine architecture, was built upon the ruins of a five-aisled fifth-century basilica which collapsed very likely in the earthquake of 618-620 that destroyed much of the city of Thessalonike. The building, which has at least five different construction-phases spanning from the 7th up until the 11th c., combines, in terms of architecture, elements from the domed basilica and a cross-shaped church with narthex. The earliest example of the type which is related to Constantinopolitan architecture of the 6th c. is the church of the Koimesis at Nicaea.

The cruciform domed nucleus of the church is enveloped by barrel-vaulted aisles and galleries. These open into the cross arms of the core through two twin arcades. The west piers, solid at Nicaea, enclose here tiny groin-vaulted bays on the ground-floor and on gallery levels. The marble decoration of the church includes marble capitals, chancel closure slabs, parapets blocking of aisles and galleries from the nave, elaborate marble wall revetment -confined to the nave and the sanctuary- colourful flooring, of which only a few slabs have survived, as well as the famous monolithic green marble pulpit (ambo) which is now kept at the Museum of Istanbul. Mosaics of different periods adorn the sanctuary and the dome. In the apse, the iconoclastic cross was replaced by the enthroned Virgin with Child probably during the 11th c.