The Voice of Hagia Sophia

Before the Current Building

As with many great cathedrals and basilicas, the Hagia Sophia stands on a site that is purported to have long been a place of religious buildings. It is believed that a Roman pagan temple once stood where the modern building lies.

The first Christian church on the site of the Hagia Sophia is thought to have been completed by Constantine’s son the Emperor Constantius II in 360 CE, although its construction may have been ordered by Constantine himself upon his establishment in the new capitol. The Roman emperors who followed continued to make additions and repairs to what was called “the Great Church.” Excavated remains of the ancient church as it stood in the 5th-century shows complex stonework, including vaulted ceilings and friezes depicting early Christian symbolism. The ancient church was destroyed by fire in 532 CE during the Nika Revolt—a politically motivated violent rampage by upset citizens who took issue with many of the advisors and policies of Emperor Justinian I.

Start of The Current Building

The current building of Hagia Sophia dates to the time of Emperor Justinian (527–65). The cathedral, built in a swift campaign in 532–37, had an original flat dome supported on pendentives that created a luminous interior. Damaged in an earthquake in 557, this cupola collapsed and was then rebuilt in the period 558–62 with a higher apex. It rises 56.60 meters above the floor and has a maximum diameter of 31.87 meters. The height of this space thus exceeds by far the tallest of medieval cathedrals of Western Europe.

the 6th-century Hagia Sophia (532–537) by Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great

The Energy in Hagia Sophia Under The Main Dome

the space under the dome the Greeks called it the beautiful horas, horas is related to performance of space as well as the action of singing and dancing. It has roots in the Greek culture and it continues within the Christianization and byzantine culture and is related mostly to chant in this later period. To chant but the endless energy, the movement in space is still there. So how to see something that to us looks as inanimate and inert like the space of a building, and show how it is perceived and animated through human presence in space, and through light and sound. So when Procopius describes this kalihoros he says the following “and whenever anyone enters this church to pray he understands at once that it is not by any human power or skill, but by the influence of god that this work has been so finely tuned. and so his mind is lifted up, towards god, an exalted feeling that god cannot be far away, but must especially love to dwell in this place which he has chosen”.

The main Dome of Hagia Sophia

So we have three energies or dynamic movements in this description, humanity lifting the gaze up towards the dome, divinity descending down with this notion of uh divinity that loves to dwell in this space. Then these two movements “up and down” is enveloped in a circular movement, the “horos” movement.

The main Dome of Hagia Sophia

The Acoustics of Hagia Sophia

The vast interior volume of the nave is 255,800 m3 and it can house roughly sixteen thousand people. The Justinianic Hagia Sophia thus presents a grand stage for public ceremony and religious ritual. Hagia Sophia’s long reverberation time of more than 10 seconds results from the immense interior volume and the reflective surfaces of marble and gold mosaics.

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