Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"O Solomon, I have Surpassed Thee!" ~ The Dedication of Justinian's Hagia Sophia

Click here to share on Facebook.
This day in history - December 27, AD 537. The Roman emperor Justinian dedicated his monumental Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. The huge edifice was actually the third Church of Holy Wisdom built on the site, the previous one having been burned to the ground during the calamitous Nika Rebellion of AD 532. Thus, this tremendous and enduring wonder of the world was built in less than six years.

The mosaic image above shows Justinian offering the Church of Holy Wisdom to the Theotokos and Christ Child and may be seen in the south vestibule of the church above the doorway to the narthex. A more detailed history of this mosaic may be found here.

Upon entering the church during its dedication ceremony, Justinian is reported to have exclaimed, "O Solomon, I have surpassed thee!" 

Hagia Sophia's interior as it looks today.
Justinian spared no expense in beautifying the church. The late Roman historian, Procopius, writing within two decades of the church's dedication, said:
"[The Church] is distinguished by indescribable beauty, excelling both in its size, and in the harmony of its measures, having no part excessive and none deficient; being more magnificent than ordinary buildings, and much more elegant than those which are not of so just a proportion. The church is singularly full of light and sunshine; you would declare that the place is not lighted by the sun from without, but that the rays are produced within itself, such an abundance of light is poured into this church.... 
Hagia Sophia exterior as it appears today, showing Ottoman-era minarets.
 ...No one ever became weary of this spectacle, but those who are in the church delight in what they see, and, when they leave, magnify it in their talk. Moreover it is impossible accurately to describe the gold, and silver, and gems, presented by the Emperor Justinian, but by the description of one part, I leave the rest to be inferred. That part of the church which is especially sacred, and where the priests alone are allowed to enter, which is called the Sanctuary, contains forty thousand pounds' weight of silver."
Click here to read the complete account of Procopius from his book entitled, Buildings.

No comments: