23 Ağustos 2010 Pazartesi


Hagia Sophia was constructed between the years 532 and 537 upon the decree of Emperor Justinian (527-565), in the form as we see it today. Later on, all of its surfaces, arches, vaults and domes, except its walls covered with pieces of marble, were ornamented with mocaics, competing in beauty only with each other. Procopius, the historian-writer contemporary of Emperor Justinian, the Great, rhapsodizes with admiration over the incredible beauty of Hagia Sophia, the grandeur of its dimensions and the harmony in its scales.

The fact that the inner decorations were made with the idea of creating only colourful and gilded surfaces, have made it possible for them to survive until now. These decorations are seen in the cross vaults of the inner narthex, and in the interior on the vault on the right, upon entrance from the imperial door, were decorated with golden mosaics at the time of Justinian, the Great. It is not definitely known whether these mosaics with figures of that period have survived or not. If they did, they must be scraped out during the hostile attitude manifested during the period of Iconoclasm between the years 726 and 842.

All the mosaics with figures that . we see today in Hagia Sophia, are those made after the closure of the period of Iconoclasm, that is to- say, starting from the year 867. When the Byzantine Empire got hold of Byzantium once more again in 1261, after the Latin invasion of 1204, the making of mosaics were taken up again. Since these mosaics were made on different dates, there is, therefore, no unity of style and contemporary workmanship.

After the conquest of Istanbul by the Turks and the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the mosaics in Hagia Sophia were not destroyed, but after some time later they were covered with a thin coat of plaster. The mosaics were in such a covered state until the middle of the Nineteenth Century. G. T. Fossati and his brother Guiseppe Fossati, who came to build the Russian embassy, started to clean these coats of plaster in 1847, upon orders from Sultan Abdulmedjid. With the work continuing up to 1849 these plaster covers were removed, and the designs of the mosaics were sketched to be published. These sketches, however, were not published, but were kept in an archive in Switzerland. The architect W. Salzenberg, who was sent to Istanbul by the German Government in those years for repairs in Hagia Sophia, extracted reliefs and sketched the designs once more and published them in 1854. After the conclusion of the work by the Fossati brothers, Sultan Abdulmedjid has visited Hagia Sophia, and has seen the mosaics. He had them eventually covered again in an easily removable manner, in order to prevent their deterioration by the damp air. In 1932, in the period of the young Turkish Republic, the mosaics were cleaned again in asicientific way by Thomas Whittemore, on behalf of the Byzantine Institute of America. Carrying his work up to 1958, Whittemore uncovered all the mosaics, and published them in detail.

The following words of Whittemore, uttered during his work, are quite meaningful: "Earthquakes and time have deprived the building of many masterpieces of the art of mosaic pictures, but those remaining have been always well preserved by the Turks during the nearly five hundred years that they have used the building. " Aside from the mosaics we have seen, there were other mosaics, which have not survived, but the existence of which we learn from various sources. We would like to mention briefly these mosaics that either the locations are not known, or we can not possibly see, due to the destruction caused by numerous earthquakes, and especially the one taking place in 1894. In the Sixth Century, in the interior of Hagia Sophia there was a huge cross in the middle of the main dome. A portrait of Jesus was made in replacement, after 842. These mosaics were also deteriorated in 889 and the mosaics of Christ Pantocrator were made instread, in a medallion of eleven meters diameter. These mosaics were in existence until the end of the Seventeenth Century. And later on an inscription with a very good caligraphy was made in replamecement. This inscription, which contains Koranic Verses,are the work of Kazasker Mustapha Izzet Effendi. It is not 1 known, however, whether the I mosaics of Christ are still ! underneath, or not.

It is also known that of the great i arches carrying the main dome of Hagia Sophia, the one on the east, I was decorated with mosaics. In I these mosaics, the throne prepared for Jesus Christ was to be seen. On the northern side of the arch, mosaics of Virgin Mary and right opposite of them, there were those of John the Baptist. On the lower tips of the arch, there was a portrait of Emperor John V Palailogos (1341-1391). At the beginning of the arch there were figures of two eagles. It is now known that these decorations were made following the repairs in 1355. On the middle of the western arch, there were portraits of the Virgin, and apostles Peter and Paul in a medallion. In the earthquake taking place in 1894, this arch was highly damaged and destructed. Of the vaults located in the middle of the southern gallery , on the one in the east, there stood a great Pantocrator, and on the one in the west, there was a group of apostles. In the chapels within the southern buttress, there are remains of mosaics, which are badly damaged. The mosaics in the vaults of the northern gallery , the existence of which are known, have not survived. In the lower floor, on the door which was named by Fossati as "the door for the poor" , it is known that mosaics portraying a group of 5 - 6 persons were in existence.

Mosaic Over the Southwestern Entrance

On the door, which leads to the narthex from the south, a triple panel of mosaics are located. This panel of mosaics, which survived intact, has been found during the repair work carried out by G. T . Fossati in 1849. On the panel, on a ground of golden mosaics Mary is portrayed in the middle, on her right Emperor Constantine I, the Great, on her left Emperor Justinian are seen. The Virgin in the middle is portrayed as sitting on a throne that has no back to lean on, and she is holding the Child Jesus on her lap.

The Virgin's feet are rested on a pedestal covered with silver mosaics and bordered with the embellishment of precious stones. The Virgin is seen, as is always the custom in Byzantine art, clad in a lapis lazuli garb. On the medallions franking her head, the monograms (MP -OY) are seen, expressing the words Mater and Theou, in other words, meaning "the mother of God". The child Jesus seen on his mother's lap, is making a sign of blessing, while holding a roll in his left hand. As to the expression on his face, it is an expression of an adult rather than a child. On the left of the Virgin, Emperor Constantine (306-337) is portrayed as proffering a model of the city to Mary.

Alongside with the emperor, and from top to bottom, it is inscribed with dark blue-black letters on a ground of golden mosaics, as follows: "Great Emperor Constantine among the Saints". The founder of Christian Istanbul is portrayed here not in the garments of his period, but those of the period of the making of the mosaics; that is to say, of the Tenth Century .The emperor , who is seen wearing a dark coloured robe, and a shawl with gold and silver embroidery on top, wears a crown on his head. On the right side of the Virgin, Emperor Justinian, the Great, (527-565) is seen. The Emperor is proffering Virgin Mary a model of Hagia Sophia, that he is holding in his hands. These mosaics were made during the repair work carried out between the years 968 and 984, at the reign of Basil II.

Mosaic Over the Imperial Door

The door, which is located at the west part of Hagia Sophia and on the same axis of the apse, is the imperial gate. As the name indicates, this door was used by the emperors and in the ceremonies related to them. The semi-circled space over the top is decorated with mosaics.

In the middle of the scene depicted, Jesus Christ is seen sitting on a throne over a ground made of gold. This throne, which is a replica of the Byzantine throne, is rnamented with pearls and precious stones. Christ Pantocrator (Ruler of the Universe) , while sitting on this throne, makes a sign of blessing with his right hand. He holds an open book in his left hand. In this open book, a quotation from the Bible of Saint John reads as follows in Greek: "Let peace and safety be with you. I am the peace and glorious light of the universe." Jesus here, whose feet are rested on a pedestal, has the expression and outlook similar to the statues of Asklepios, the god of good health of antiquity .

At the level of Christ's shoulders, we see that in the medallion on the right, Mary, Mother of Christ, and in the medallion on the left the Archangel Gabriel, the founder of the church, are portrayed. An emperor is seen lying prostrate in front of the throne. This is Leon VI, who reigned during the years between 886 and 912.

Mosaic of the Empress Zoe

The mosaics of zoe are situated on the east wall of the hall in the southern gallery reserved for emperors. This panel of mosaics, which has a dimension of 2.40 x 2.44 meters, unfortunately lacks a portion about 35 centimeters at the bottom. On these mosaics, the figure of Christ Pantocrator is flanked by those of Emperor Constantine IX Manomachos, and his Empress zoe. Christ is seen in the middle, sitting on a throne ornamented with precious stones. He is seen holding his right hand in a gesture of blessing, while holding with his left hand the Holy Book studded with pearls, over his knees. Jesus is seen wearing a lapis lazuli robe. The parts showing his feet are no more in existence.

There is a halo with a cross at the back of his head. On both sides of the head of jesus, the abbreviated monograms of "Iessus Christos", which are denoted with the combination of the letters of .'IC" and "XC", are'read.

On the right side of Jesus, Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos is depicted standing up, with his crown on top of his head, clad in ornamented ceremonial costumes. He is holding a purse in his hand, symbolyzing the donation he has made to the church. Over his head and on the golden background is seen an inscription to this effect: "Constantine Monomachos, the pious ruler of Romans and the servant of God's Jesus". On the left of Jesus, Empress zoe is seen standing up. The empress is seen holding a roll of papers, signifying the donations she has made. The inscription over the head of her third husband Constantine IX, Monomachos ( 1042-1055 ) is repeated exactly also on this roll. The empress was the daughter of Constantine VII. Over the head of the empress, there is an inscription to this effect: "Very pious Augusta zoe". Althought Empress zoe is seen young in the mosaics, she was quite old even at her first " marriage in 1028. Historians state that she looked young, because of ther being small and short. When scrutunized carefully, it is seen that the name of Constantine IX : was scraped in both places and , were made as seen today in a disorderly way. The emperor's head was also scraped and in its place the present portrait was made. It is understood from , mosaics at the neck of zoe that her head was also changed. Here, it becomes evident that these mosaics formerly represented other people and were changed later on.

It is suggested that either her first " husband Romanos III Argyrus ; (1028-1034), or Michael IV, whom she adopted as a son first and made an Emperor later on, were portrayed here. This emperor has, however, fallen into disesteem and has been exiled to the island of Prinkopo (of the Princess Islands) , and zoe has made her third marriage with Constantine IX. It is believed that in these mosaics the head of this figure was scraped out and the head of Monomachos replaced it.

Mosaic of the Comnenus

The mosaics of the Comnenus, are located on the eastern wall of the southern gallery in the upper floor. On this panel, Mary is depicted in the middle, flanked by Emperor John II Comnenus and his wife Irene, of Hungarian origin.

The Virgin Mary , seen located in the middle, is shown holding the Child Jesus on her lap. Behind the head of the Child Jesus, a halo with a cross is seen. Jesus is making a sign of blessing with one hand, while bolding a roll in the other. The Virgin is shown in her usual lapis lazuli gown and is standing up. On both sides of her head stand the signs '.MP" and .'OY", indicating her as the Mother of God.

Emperor John II Comnenus is seen, on the right side of the Virgin. Over the emperor's head the following words are written with red mosaics over a golden background; .'Porphyrogennatos Ionnes Komnenos".

The title of "Porphyrogennatos" is a sign of nobility used for those born in the reign of his father . John II Comnenus, who is one of the best emperors in Byzantine history , is depicted as a dignified person on these mosaics.

The emperor pictured as viewed from the front is seen in a garb decorated with precious stones. The emperor is seen holding a purse in his hand. This indicates that he has donated some money to Hagia Sophia.

On the left of the Virgin, Empress Irene is seen standing up, and wearing ceremonial garments and with her crown on her head. Empress Irene was the daughter of King Laszlo of Hungary. With her eloborately plaited blond hair, light gray eyes and pink cheeks, it is clearly evident that she is from Central Europe. She is seen holding a roll in her hand and on both sides of her head there is an inscription as follows: "Pious Augusta Irene".

Near this triple composition, a portrait of their eldest son Alexius Comnenus is squeezed over an adjacent pilaster. It is known that this prince, who was made a partner to the throne in 1122, when he was only seventeen, died soon of tuberculosis. Here, his face has mournful features, reflecting his sorry condition.

The mosaics of Comnenus were made in 1122. It is one of the best examples, displaying the realistic aspects of the art of portraiture. Here, people are represented as they actually are, without being idealized.

Main Body

It is possible to enter the main body through nine different doors from the inner narthex. The nave (Naos) , which is the center of Hagia Sophia for worship and prayers, has a width of 32.27 meters and is separeted from the side naves by means of four quadrangular supporting columns, and columns and monoliths placed in between. Including the side naves this place has the dimensions of 70.30 x 69.50 meters. The length, on the other hand, reaches 100 meters, when the inner and outer narthexes are included. Hagia Sophia, with its plan at this scale, ranks fourth in the world after Saint Peter in Rome, and the Cathedrals of Sevilla and Milan.

The dome, covering the main body and being carried by four enormous piers, is of 55.60 meters high from the floor. After numerous repairs the dome has lost its roundness and has become eliptical; and thus, the diameter of the dome varies between 31.24 and 30.86 meters. Formerly the dome was in a broadly spread out shape, but after it toppled in 558, a new dome was constructed with forty framed ribs and forty windows. In order to reduce the weight of the dome, two big half domes and two exedras were added on the east-west axis, the weight was decreased by means of a system of arches, columns and vaults. In spite of all these measures, the weight of the dome hasconstituted a problem in the earthquakes that took place throughout the centuries. By building buttressed supporting from the dutside, Byzantine and Ottoman architects have provided for the conservation of the edifice up to the present time. The sheathing of the carrying big piers with colourful slabs of marble and such stones as jasper, has sort of camouflaged these and consequently the nave has become and an illuminated space and accordingly the dome has acquired a more effective appearance. We find out from ancient sources that below the caligraphic inscription from the Holy Koran, (written by Kazasker Mustapha Effendi) , at the center of the dome, which we see today, formerly stood mosaics of Jesus. It is known that a cross was located there in the Sixth Century, and the mosaics of Jesus were made after 842. These mosaics were deteriorated in 989, and have completely fallen down in 1346. In replacement of these, mosaics of Christ Pantocrator were made in a medallion of eleven meters diameter in 1355, during the reign of Emperor John Paleologos. At present, the existence of the mosaics of Christ under the caligraphy is not known. Of the I four arches supporting the dome", after the examination carried out r on the one on the east, it was found out that mosaics of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and Emperor John V Paleologos Were located there. At the vault of the bema in Hagia Sophia, figures of two angels arefound. The figures are dated back to the Ninth Century and represent Archangels Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel on the right is in a fairly well preserved condition, but Michael on the left has almost completely deteriorated, only the tips of his wings have survived. These archangel figures are portrayed in ceremonial garbs of dark colours over the gilded surface.

On the pendantive which enable the passage to the main dome, four angel figures, that are not in match to each other, were made. Of these figures, those on the east are originals, whereas the ones on the west have been deteriorated, and later on completed. with frescoes. These figures of angels, were never covered formerly at the times of the Ottomans, however, their faces were covered by gilding during the repairs carried out by Fossati.

The semi-arched niches of the northern tympanon of Hagia Sophia, were ornamented by golden mosaics of patriarchs. These will be dealt with the Virgin Mary mosaics found in the apse. The lights infiltrating from the windows of the walls of the Tympanon illuminate the main body considerably. The floor is paved with rectangular slabs of marble. It is known that this is not the original pavement, that the original is underneath. The main body of Hagia Sophia is separated from the side naves by the four big piers at the right and the left by the colonnades between the piers. The width of the flanking naves vary from18.20 to 18.70 meters. Of the monoliths and columns found in Hagia Sophia, forty are in the lower floor and sixty-seven are located in the upper floor (triforium) galleries. The columns, which were brought from the temples located allover the empire, have capitals which display the best samples of Byzantine workmanship of stone ornamentation. These capitals, which are dated back to the Sixth Century, the monograms of Emperor Justinian, the Great, and his wife, Empress Theodora are displayed. In the lower floor, the colossal eight columns of green porphyry were brought from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, and the ones of dark purple were brought from Thebes in Egypt. The walls are plated with marbles of Thessaly from the floor up to the level of the arches. Furthermore, the walls were made more attractive and pleasing to the eye, by means of the use of Egyptian porpyry, marbles from Numidia and pink veined marbles from Phyrigia.

The two alabaster urns located at the enterance, belong to the Hellenistic Age, and they were brought from Pergamum. In the middle of the side nave at the II south, is located the library of Mahmud I, between two buttresses. We shall deal with this library and the other items of the l Turkish period in a separate il chapter. At the place under the j eastern half dome of the main body, the bema and apse sections i are located. These parts were separated in Byzantine times by a railing from the main body. Here were kept the holy articles of the ! church and the relics of the Saints.Moreover, on the steps-like raised platforms the partiarchs and notable dignitaries of the church used to sit. At the Ottoman period, the present day mihrab was constructed in the apse. The two candelebra flanking the mihrab was presented by Siileyman, the Magnificent, after his successful Hungarian campaign. The Turkish works here, the mihrab and the inscription on top of it, the panels, the mimber (dais or a high pedastal with a staircase, on which a hutbe is delivered), and the muezzin lodge shall be dealt with in a separate chapter.

The place in front of the muezzin lodge, made up of round pieces of stone, was the place called "Omphalion" , where the coronation of emperors took place. Furthermore, there are pictures engraved on stone slabs seen in the form of special panels, located mostly in the side naves. Some of these, are located at the interiot: part of the imperial door. Both at the right and the left, stylized baby fish and the winnowing fork of Poseidon are seen in the surrounding decorations of circular forms. Between these two panels, stand another one which is on top, that resembles a temple. Behind the curtain between the columns a cross is portrayed. At the nothern nave, there is a quadrangular column, towards the exit doors.

This column, which is sheathed with brass plates, has a hole in the middle, and this column is known as "the sweating column " . By inserting a finger into this hole, one is supposed to make a wish. After making our own wishes, let us now proceed to the upper galleries to discuss the mosaics located there.

Deesis Mosaic

In the upper floor of Hagia Sophia, the walls of the gallery at the south, are embellished by the mosaics considered to be the best in Hagia Sophia and the most famous one in the world. These are known as the Deesis Mosaics.

On these mosaics, Virgin Mary and John the Baptist (Ionnes Prodromos) are seen asking Jesus for intercession for humanity on the Last Judgment Day. The bottom parts of the panel of 6 x 4.68 meters dimensions have unfortunately deteriorated due to the air circulation from the window. But even the remaining parts are enough for them to be considered as one of the most important works of Byzantine art.

On the panel, are located a big Jesus in the middle and the Virgin on his right, and John the Baptist on his left, all of them seen within the golden background. Jesus, who is here depicted as seen from the front, has a halo with a cross at the back of his head. Jesus, while making a sign of blessing with his right hand, holds a bound Holy Book in his left hand. The bottom parts of the Virgin Mary , who is situated at the right side of Jesus, are badly deteriorated. Mary is shown in three fourths profile and only her head and shoulders have survived the wear and tear. She has a human expression on her face and looks downward. Both the names of Mary and Christ are written in abbreviations in Greek on both sides of their heads respectively.

John the Baptist (Ionnes Prodromos) stands on the left side of Jesus. He is shown in three fourth profile, just like the Virgin, and his first name is written in abbreviation from top to bottom, but Prodromos is written fully.

As it is related in the Bible, John the Baptist spent his life in the desert, far away from the favours of the world, and this isolated, solitary life is reflected on the expression of his face. On the faces of both the Virgin and the Baptist, one can read the suffering of human beings on the Last Judgement Day. They symbolize that salvation is by and from Christ on that fateful day. Christ, on the other hand, appears on this great day of judgement as an entity full of tenderness and kindness, and exalted to reach divinity.

The well-chosen colours of the mosaics is a splendid example of the indication that the main principles of the pictorial arts in the Early Ages, continued to live in Byzantine art and in the entire Middle Ages. The Deesis mosaics, which were brought into daylight through the meticulous work of Thunderwood in the years 1934- 1935, are considered by the experts of the history of art, as the beginnig of the Renaissance in the Byzantine pictorial arts. Although some historians j consider the Deesis mosaics as belonging to the Eleventh, and some others to the Twelveth, and still some other Byzantine history , of art experts attribute them be of the Thirteenth Centuries; it is generally accepted that they date back from the Twelveth Century.