Chapter 2: The Church of the Holy Wisdom
Introduction and Chapter 1
The book author, Lord Kinross, moves ahead in the story to talk about the construction of the New Hagia Sophia that began in 532 A.D. after the old Church burned.
He describes the construction of this building and fills in the details with entertaining short stories from ancient records:
The chief architect, Anthemius of Tralles, was brought in for this project because the local builders did not have the ability or aptitude for such a lofty endeavor. To get an idea of his mischievous, inventive character, one story relates how Anthemius concocted a device in his apartment to scare the bejeebers out of an annoying neighbor on the floor above. He installed a cauldron with pipes and covered it with leather. When the cauldron was heated, it rattled the entire building- imitating an earthquake. ~to continue click read more
Stories of apparitions that occurred during and after construction are of much interest. One "legend' tells of a boy who had a conversation with an angel. The angel asked “why the workmen do not quickly finish the work of God, but have left it and gone to eat?” He commands the youth to go and get the workmen “for I swear to thee, my son , by Holy Wisdom, whose temple is now being built, I will not depart, since, by the command of the Word of God, I am to minister and guard here until you return.” Eventually the emperor hears of the unusual visit. When he is sure of its authenticity, he commands the boy never to return to the site. In that way, the angel's presence was secured for all times.
St Jerome relates that outlying regions were ransacked in order to secure precious building materials for the Hagia Sophia (and other public works in Constantinople). The inside space of the Hagia was planned to be “volumetric” in order to accommodate the Greek liturgy and the author describes the layout with precise detail. Four acres of gold covered the ceilings, vaults and arches. The gold, precious stones, crosses, sacred vessels, lamps ornaments, silks and other treasures cost $75- $150,000,000 in 1972 modern currency and 365 farms as far as Egypt and India, as well as all of those in the East and West were required to contribute.
The main altar was astonishing according to one source. “Who can gaze on it on account of its many glinting surfaces? so that at one time it all appears of gold; from another place all of silver, and in another of glittering sapphire.” To get this effect- gold, silver, all kinds of stones, pearls, copper, electron lead, tin, iron, glass, and other metallic substances were blended together in a melting pot and poured into a mold. Although the architect was brilliant, he was also under considerable pressure from Emperor Justinian to complete the work and
so he cut corners. The dome, with it's structural faults, was in a weakened state after an earthquake in 553 A.D. and it could not be adequately repaired. The dome roof collapsed in 558, destroying the altar and other artifacts. By then Anthemius and his main assistant, Isidorus “were dead- spared the site of their own handiwork.” Their sons took up the reconstruction, designing the dome smaller, better and safer. The Hagia Sophia was reconsecrated in 563 A.D.
Beginning with Chapter 3. At this point I found it necessary to locate a chronological chart of the emperors (and what was happening at that time) since the author is building a story and refers to various periods within Byzantine history. Fortunately, a chronology was located at the end of the book.
Image 1: "Viewed from this unusual perspective, the huge dome of Hagia Sophia
appears even higher than its actual 180 feet above the pavement of the nave."
Image 2: "The whimsical manuscript illumination showing the construction of Solomon's
temple was made in Constantinople in the late fourth century and probably reflects contemporary building techniques such as those used in erecting the first Hagia Sophia."
Image 3: "Emperor Justinian supervising the construction of Hagia Sophia. That phenomenal
task was completed only five years after the earlier church on the site had been destroyed by
fire in 532."
To Chapter 3
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