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I'm pretty late sharing my Blogging Through the Alphabet study this week. I decided to take a look at an amazing church built during the sixth century - Hagia Sophia.
The powerful Roman Empire had grown to rule much of the known world, as it brought Pax Romana, the Roman peace, to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa under the reign of Caesar Augustus and his successors. But by the third century, the empire was becoming increasingly unstable. Diocletian tried to solve the problem by having four emperors rule simultaneously, but this eventually led to a civil war with Constantine emerging the victor and sole Emperor. He moved the capital to Byzantium in 330 AD, and the city was renamed Constantinople in his honor. Christianity was accepted as a legal religion under Constantine, and Christians were able to worship freely and fully participate in the marketplace without fear of persecution. However, the government of Rome was crumbling, and eventually split into the Eastern and Western Empires in the fifth century. The Western Empire collapsed completely, but the Eastern, or Byzantine Empire, continued until it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
So that's a brief background of the Byzantine Empire. Back in the 6th century, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian wanted a church build for his own personal worship. Hagia Sophia, meaning 'Holy Wisdom', was constructed in 537 AD and served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral until 1453, except during a few years during the 1200s when it was converted to a Catholic cathedral under the Crusaders. It was designed by two Greek mathematician architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is especially known for its massive dome. Earthquakes in 553 and 557 caused damage to the original dome, which collapsed in 558. The emperor immediately ordered its restoration, and the new dome was completed in 562, with an interior height of 182 feet. The dome itself has survived fires, earthquakes, and wars, although the half-domes and other parts of the building were sometimes damaged and had to be repaired.
In 1453, the Ottoman Turk rulers converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque, and most of the Christian artwork inside was destroyed or plastered over. The minarets and other Muslim features were added. In 1931 the mosque was closed to the public, and in 1935 the Republic of Turkey reopened it as a museum. The carpets that had covered the marble floors were removed and the mosaics that had been hidden under plaster were revealed. The mosaics, marble pillars, and artwork are rich and intricate.
|Section of the Deisis Mosaic, in the Northern Gallery|
|view of the Apse, showing the Virgin Mary mosaic|
You can find out more about this beautiful building at the Hagia Sophia Museum website and in this Khan Academy video:
And you can also check out the Everyday Easels lesson plans inspired by Hagia Sophia at SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
This post is linked at Blogging Through the Alphabet hosted by A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool. Join in to see what others are sharing related to this week's letter!
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