Originally built as a church in 360AD by Roman Emperor Constantius, son of Constantine, Aya Sofya twice burned down before being rebuilt in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian.For almost a thousand years, the Hagia Sophia was a triumph of Christianity and the symbol of Byzantium, and until the 16th century, maintained its status as the largest Christian church in the world
Architecturally the grand basilica represented a major revolution in church construction in that it featured a huge dome which necessitated the implementation of new ideas in order to support the weight of this dome, a feat which had not been attempted before.
The dome which became universal in Byzantine church construction represented the vault of heaven thus constituting a feature quasi-liturgical in function. In the days when there was no steel used in construction, large roofs and domes had to be supported by massive pillars and walls. The dome of Hagia Sophia was supported by four piers (the solid supports from which the arches spring), each measuring about 118 square yards at the base.
Four arches swing across linked by four pendentives (the parts of a groined ceiling springing from the pillars). The apices of the arches and the pendentives support the circular base from which rises the dome which is pierced by forty single-arched windows which admit light to the interior.
The Ayasofya (known in Greek as the Hagia Sophia and in English as St. Sophia, or Church of the Holy Wisdom) was designed to surpass in grandeur, glory, and majesty every other edifice ever constructed as a monument to God. Justinian began construction soon after his suppression of the Nika Revolt, indicating that combating unemployment was high on the list as well.
He chose the two preeminent architects of the day: Anthemius of Tralles (Aydin) and Isidorus of Miletus. After 5 years and 4 months, when the construction of the Hagia Sophia was completed in A.D. 537, the emperor raised his hands to heaven and proclaimed,Glory to God who has deigned to let me finish so great a work. O Solomon,I have outdone the Enthusiasm for this feat of architecture and engineering was short-lived, because 2 years later, an earthquake caused the dome to collapse.
Hagia Sophia has a classical basilica plan. The main ground plan of the building is a rectangle, 230 feet (70 m) in width and 246 feet (75) m in length. The area is covered by a central dome (photo of outside and inside) with a diameter of 31 meters (102 feet), which is just slightly smaller than that of the Pantheon in Rome.
In 1204 the Ayasofya was sacked and stripped down to the bare bones by the Crusaders,a desecration that robbed the church of precious relics and definitively divided the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
After Mehmet II penetrated the city in 1453, his first official stop was to this overwhelming symbol of an empire that he had conquered, and with his head to the ground, he invoked the name of Allah, and declared the great house of worship a mosque