This is a first in a series of book "reviews". I have an extensive collection of books and five more were added at Christmas. Cataloging them here is a great way to sort through content. The plan is to briefly chronicle chapters, pulling out interesting quotes, images and ideas. I haven't plans to bring the history up to date. This book was published by Newsweek Book Division in 1972.
About the author statement: Lord Kinross (at the time) wrote four books. He was a middle eastern journalist, broadcaster and Officer in the British Foreign Service.
Chapter One...click read more
Introduction: The original structure was destroyed by fire in 532 AD. It was rebuilt and extravagantly redecorated by Emperor Justinian within five years. The Ottoman Turks conquered of Constantinople in 1453 and Hagia Sofia was converted into a mosque. The mosaics were whitewashed and the huge Koranic disc verses were installed. With the final decline of the Ottoman dynasty, the Byzantine institute of America gained permission in 1932 to restore the building’s severely neglected interior.
Chapter One: The New Rome
This chapter details the historical and geographical location of the city, the conversion of Constantine, the founding of Constantinople as the centerpiece of Christianity and his model of ruling- as a temporal and spiritual monarch.
Lord Kinross notes some interesting facts about Emperor Constantine’s mother, St Helena of York. “A royal concubine-possibly of Bithynian origin; possibly, as Gibbon declares, the daughter of an English innkeeper- Helena was sanctified by her son, who gave her the title Augusta, inscribed her effigy on his coinage, named the chief square of this capital the Augustaeum in her honor, and erected in its center a porphyry column with her statue atop it.” Helena dutifully made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 325 A.D. where she erected two basilicas, one on the Mount of Olives and the other over the grotto at Bethlehem. She carried back to Constantinople relics of the True Cross, the crosses of the two thieves, the lance, sponge and crown of thrones and other relics of the passion. “The city thus aspired to be not merely the NEW Rome but the NEW Jerusalem.”
During this period…Constantine built many churches and these “departed entirely from the architectural style of the pagan temple, evolving instead a new form of secular building- the BASILICA- a not inappropriate choice since Church was now equated with State.” Constantine’s plan was to build the Hagia Sopia as “a symbol of Christ’s wisdom." Constantius II, Constantine’s son, carried out the construction thirty years after the city’s founding in 360 AD. Details of the inauguration ceremony and tradition are chronicled. Constantine died seven years after its dedication.
“Ironically, the early Christians survived persecution by the pagans only to be torn by the equally violent internal conflicts.” This is the home of seven church councils over the next five centuries. Under Constantius II, the nature of the Trinity was disputed and Arianism flourished. Following his reign, Julian the Apostate, his uncle and brother-in-law, took over. Fortunately, Julien never carried out his plans to destroy the Hagia Sophia. Only his untimely death subverted this attempt. The roof of the Hagia Sophia was destroyed by fire, in 404, during political riots associated with St John Chrysostom. “Then on the ides of January in 532, early in the reign of one of the most famous of all Byzantine emperors, Justinian the Great, it was burned to the ground." The scholar, Procopius, observed: “God permitted them to accomplish this impiety, foreseeing into what an object of beauty this shrine was destined to be transformed.”
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