December 8, 2014
“Early Byzantine architecture was built as a continuation of Roman architecture, Stylistic drift, technological advancement, and political and territorial changes meant that a distinct style gradually resulted in the Greek cross plan in church architecture” (Fletcher). The Byzantine Empire’s architecture were functional works of art that varied from the walls that fortified the city of Constantinople, to center of the city, the palace, to the center of religion, Hagia Sophia. Fletcher explained that the architecture was a continuation of Roman Architecture, but it was much more, it was an advancement of the Roman’s architecture in function, complexity, and beauty.
The Hagia Sophia is a perfect example of how the Byzantine Architecture was an advancement of function, complexity, and beauty. The Hagia Sophia assembled in 532 A.D. and finished in 537 A.D, it was an Eastern Orthodox cathedral. The main purpose of it was the dedication to the Wisdom of God, but the church had a wide variety of functions. The church was a safe keep to a large collection of religious artifacts that were displayed to the constituents of the church, but also hidden from the public eye. The church had the perfect atmosphere to hold ceremonies while at the same time held refugees from persecution. The purpose of the church changed multiple times throughout its lifetime. In 1204 it was a Roman Catholic cathedral. Then in 1261 it was an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, but eventually became a mosque for Muslim worship from 1453 to 1931.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, this meant an end to Christian belief within the walls of the church. The bells, altar, and other religious artifacts were removed, while all the mosaics that depicted Jesus, Mother Mary, and other symbolic figures were plastered over.
“Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture”. (Fazio p. 67) The dome was something that nobody had seen before. It was a complex structure that baffled many people during its completion and also baffled modern day engineers. The dome sits on top of a rectangular foundation. “The pendentives implement the transition from the circular base of the dome to the rectangular base below, restraining lateral forces of the dome and allow its weight to flow downwards”. (Kleiner & Mamiya p. 331). According the Columbia Encyclopedia a pendentive is “a constructive device permitting of a circular dome over a square room or an elliptical dome over a rectangular room”. The pendentives were triangular in shape, they held the weight from above but because of being triangular and had a curve the weight was absorbed and focused on one spot. The Hagia Sophia consisted of 4 pendentives. They were set to directions. They were at North East, North West, South East and South west. “The first experimentation with pendentives were made in Roman dome construction beginning in the 2nd-3rd century A.D., while full development of the form was achieved in the 6th century on the Hagia Sophia”(Heinle & Schlaich p. 30-32).
With the high complexity of the design flaws were bound to happen. The speed at which the church was completed and the complexity of the design led to a weak walled church. The original dome collapsed completely after a massive earthquake in 558. Isidore the younger, nephew of Isidore or Milentus, designed the new dome. The dome now contained “ribs” or buttresses to help even out the immense weigh the dome created for the walls. Even after many altercations to the walls and dome to help keep it upright, the building still ended up being deformed in shape of the original plan. When erecting the walls the builders did not let the brick and mortar dry properly before they began the nest layer. During reconstruction, when it came to place the dome, the masterpiece of the church, the walls...
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