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St. Sophia :: Main Body

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.


Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Hagia Sophia".

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