Hagia Sophia

The siege of Istanbul commenced on April 6, 1453, and continued for fifty-three days and finally the city fen on Tuesday, May 29, 1453. The besieging Ottomans, when conquering Byzantium, found both the city and the church in a neglected and wretched condition. In various documents pertaining to the period, many references are made, to this sorry situation of the city r; and Hagia Sophia. Many travelers who visited Istanbul at that period, and among them particularly Pero Tafur, a Spanish nobleman from Cordoba, and Buondelmonti, the Florantine Traveler, both point out the wretchedness of Hagia Sophia and testify that even some of the church doors were lying around on the ground.

On Tuesday, May 29, 1453,Sultan Mehmed II, known as the Conqueror, entered the city , riding at the head of his victorious army,and passed through the streets , and along the Mese (the main street) and reached Hagia Sophia. Dismounting in front of this badly-kept and wretced church, he toured the galleries in the lower and the upper floors of Saing Sophia. He was very much upset to see such a sublime and magnificient temple in such a ruinous condition, According to the writings of Tursun Bey, the Ottoman historian who was present at the scene, the Sultanrecited his famous couplet in Persian, voicing his grief at this sorry sight. Again we learn from the records kept by Tursun bey that he addressed the people, and the Patriarch and the church officials who had lyed down in prostration. He said to the Patriarch: .’Stand up. Look I am Sultan Mehmed, telling you, your friends, and all those gathering here that as of today you have no reason to fear from my wrath, as regards to your lives and freedom. ” Then, turning around to his state officials and commanding officers, he ordered them not to mistreat the people, but sending them away to their homes in peace and safety.

Mehmed, the Conqueror, who gave orders for the immediate cleaning up of Hagia Sophia, saw one of his soldiers damaging a piece of marble in the courtyard. He was furious and ran up to this soldier and pushed him with his mace, and prevented further damage to the stone. He scolded the soldier by addressing him thus: “You are a good-for- nothing! How dare you trying to demolish a temple! If you are brave and man enough, try to build a temple yourself.” Hammer Dueas narrates this incident as follows: The soldier became half dead, not because of the push with the mace, but because of the wrath of the sultan; other soldiers took him away from the courtyard by carrying him. Thus it is this push of the mace that kept Istanbul intact, and prevented the fall of a single stone in the city , among the excited tumult, the almost doomsday agitation and heedless confusion that surrounded the conquered city.”

Mehmed II, the Conqueror, who allocated a great deal of property ” for the survival and maintenance of Hagia Sophia, has not made many changes in the interior . Even though the minaret facing , the Sultanahmet Square is to be regarded as being built in the era of the Conqueror, this minaret has been modified later on. The Fatih Medresesi (a medrese was formarly a moslem school of theology) I which is stuated in the west of Hagia Sophia, and of which only the foundations are visible today, was also constructed by Mehmed II.

It is known that a minaret was built during the reign of Beyazid II (1481-1512), who succeded his father to the throne. This minaret must be constructed in~ replacement for the minaret known to be built at the time of the conqueror. Beyazid II has also made an additi.onal floor to the Fatih Medresesi. Selim I, the Inflexible, who reigned between 1512-1520, had beaten the Sultanate of Mamelukes in Egypt in 1517, and had brought the last Abbaside Caliph together with him to Istanbul. This last Caliph, called Al-Mutavakkul, proclaimed 1to the world that he transferred the caliphate to Selim I. .

Siileyman the Magnificient, known to Turks as the Law Giver ,who succeeded his Father Selim I i and who reigned in the years between 1520 and 1566, has made no changes in the mosque, I but has made a gift of the two colossa1 candles on inverted columnar bases and made of – bronze, that he brought back all [the way from Hungary , after the conquest of that country. These huge candelabra were placed on the two sides of the mihrab. Of the Ottoman sultans who showed interest in Hagia Sophia, as the leading figure one may cite Selim II, Suleyman’s son, who reigned between the years 1566 and 1574. It is known that Selim II appointed Sinan, the famous Turkish architect of all times, for repairs in Hagia Sophia. At that time two minarets made of bricks and with grove,s, were built. Sinan, furthermore, undertook a long period of serious maintenance and repair work,Iwhich continued up to 1574, when Murad III succeeded Selim II to the Otoman throne. Sinan demolished the housessurrounding the mosqu and added two more minarets to Hagia Sophia. Sinan also constructed buttresses to support the walls of Hagia Sophia, and thus has enabled its survival up to the present.

After the decease of Selim II, his tiirbe (mauseleum) was located in the southern direction of the mosque, so as not to harm its grandeur. Later on several turbe (tombs or museleums) were built for Murad III and Mustapha I at Hagia Sophia. Later on, in the interior of Hagia Sophia a Hunkar ahfili (a sultan’s box) covered ; with tiles, a mimber (moslem pulpit) decorated with marbles, ‘I and a dais for a vaiz (moslem t preacher) and a lodge for a t muezzin (a mosque official who .crying out on the balcony of a -minaret calling moslems to prayerfive times a day) were built.

During the reign of Murad III, two large alabaster urns were brought from Bergama (Pergamum) and were placed on the two sides of the nave, as it may still be seen today. Later on two urns of the same type, but with ornaments on their surface were taken to Paris and are today exhibited in the Louvre Museum.

In the fire breaking out in 1755 at the shore and extending up to Hagia Sophia and which could not be extinguished for thirty-six hours, the lead sheets covering the dome of Hagia Sophia melted and poured down.

In 1717, during the reign of Sultan Ahmed 111, the plastering of Hagia Sophia were renewed. Furthermore, a beautiful sadlrvan (fountain for ablutions) , a dining hall, an imaret (an almhouse, a kitchen for the distrubution of food to the poor), a siibyan mektebi (a school for boys) were made outside the mosque, as well as a new box for sultans, a new mihrab were built in the interior, and a magnificient library was added. Moreover, the old Skevophylakione, which was referred to as the treasury building, was converted later on into a warehouse for provisions. During the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, (1808-1839), a repair work was carried out, speriding eight hunded kese (kese means purse, and formerly indicated five hundered piastres) .Later on, during the reign of Abdulmedjid (1839-1861) a much more extensive repair work was undertaken.

At this time, the Swiss architect Gaspare T. Fossati, who came to Istanbul to build the Russian embassy building, was assignedby Abdulmedjid with the repair work of Hagia Sophia. G. T. Fossati, taking his brother Guiseppe Fossati with him, completed this assignent of ! repairs with the utmost care. The sum of forty thousand kese bequethed to the State by the Sheik-ul-Islam (formerly the Minister responsible for all matters connected with the Sheri or Canon Law, religious schools, etc. , and coming next to the Grand Vizier in precedence) Makkizadah Asim Effendi, was allocated to this repair work.

This work, carried on with the employment of eight hundred workers, repaired the cracks and the places of danger, and also overhauled the entire ornaments in the interior and the exterior,

Meanwhile, Fossati showed the Sultan the mosaics. The Sultan immeadiately gave orders for their cleaning up. The mosaics, the surfaces of which were carefully cleaned, were covered again with a thin coat of plaster or paint, which could be easily removed, and with those of the mosaics which have fallen down, the Sultan’s tughra (monogram) was carefully made as an act of commemoration. The circular old- fashioned oil lamps installed during the time of Ahmed III were replaced by new pendant oil lamps. The square -framed placards hung on the rectangular feet in the shape of columns supporting the dome and arches were removed, and those circular -framed disks of gigantic size, were hung instead; these were inscribed by the caligraph Kazasker izzed Effendi (1801-1877), bearing the names of Allah, Mohammed, the prophet, Abu Bakr, Osman, Omar and Ali, the first four caliphs; and Hassan and Hossain, the grand children of the prophet. Fossati painted the exterior of the mosque with yellow and red paint. He also removed the then-existing sultan’s box, and built the present day sultan’s box at the left of the mihrab. This box is connected to the royal pavilIon located behind the mosque, built by Sultan Mahmud I.

Moreover, a muvakkithane (lodging for a time- keeper at a mosque) with a dome, was built in the interior of the gate known as Shakardji Kapusu (Sugar Seller’s Gate) .Fossati has also raised one of the minarets to the level of the others. The medrese, which was constructed at the time of Mehmed II, and restored at thetime of Beyazid II, was built again in the Western style. Today, we can only see the foundations of this building. During these restorations, many celebrities like the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, and Horace Vernet, the painter, have visited Saint Sophia.

The architect W. Salzenberg, who came to Istanbul in those years made skethes of the mosaics, and published them after his return, without the permission of Fossati Brothers. Fossati himself, was contended with publishing only an album showing the interior and the exterior views of Hagia Sophia. After the conclusion of all these repairs and restoration, the inauguration and re-consecration of Hagia Sophia took place on July 13, 1849, with ceromonial pomp.