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Hagia Sophia’s Historical and Architectural Importance Essay

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Updated: Nov 27th, 2021

The architecture of any period and any culture has remarkable masterpieces which strike with their beauty and have an immense historical value. Hagia Sophia is one of such masterpieces for it is the best example of Early Christian and Byzantine architecture. Hundreds of years that have passed since the day of its construction did not manage to wash away its beauty and only contributed more to its historical and architectural value. Hagia Sophia deserves to be called a perfect example of Byzantine architecture which was constructed under the influence of Early Christianity; structurally, it was also influenced by Roman culture with its architectural importance consisting in using new methods of supporting the dome.

What should be mentioned above all is that Hagia Sophia is a creation of Byzantine architecture inspired by Early Christianity. The influence of Early Christianity on architecture was immense. It is remarkable that before Constantine became Emperor in the fourth century, Christianity was ardently persecuted. After Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, it was made the state religion which started influencing Byzantine architecture and later spread onto Medieval and Renaissance architecture as well. Hagia Sophia is an example of an architectural masterpiece influenced by Early Christianity for its design is the result of modifications and perfections of the churches which were built in the times of Constantine’s ruling.

As far as the architectural design of Hagia Sophia is concerned, it has been largely affected by Roman architecture for, in times when the church was constructed, Byzantium was strongly influenced by the Roman culture. This is the main reason why Hagia Sophia combines elements of Roman and Byzantine architecture, though the elements of the latter are more numerous. Thus, for instance, “the “walls” in Hagia Sophia are concealed … piers [which] indicates that the architects sought Roman monumentality as an effect and did not design the building according to Roman principles” (Gardner, Kleiner, and Mamiya 251). This is why Hagia Sophia may be considered as a masterpiece of namely Byzantine, rather than Roman architecture.

Finally, the architectural importance of Hagia Sophia is hard to overestimate. These days Hagia Sophia is fairly referred to as the greatest masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. It was the first building of its kind that was constructed with the use of pendentives which join “to form a ring of four arches whose planes bound a square. The weight of the dome is thus transferred not to the walls but rather through the pendentives and arches to the four piers from which the arches spring” (Kleiner 235). After the implementation of this technique during the construction of Hagia Sophia, it was borrowed by Near Eastern architects. Thus, the architectural value of the church in question consists in its working out a solution for the problem of placing a dome over a square.

In sum, Hagia Sophia deserves to be called the greatest building of all times due to its historical, religious, and architectural importance. This church will always remain as a symbol of the Byzantium’s accepting Christianity. Hagia Sophia’s combining the elements of Early Christian and Roman architecture will always remind people about the influence of the Roman culture on Byzantium. And, lastly, Hagia Sophia will always be remembered as a building that solved the problem of setting the dome over the square with the help of the pendentives.

Works Cited

Gardner, Helen, Kleiner, Fred S., and Mamiya, Christin J. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective. London: Cengage Learning, 2006.

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective. London: Cengage Learning, 2009.

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