December 12, 2007

Hagia Sophia, Trabzon

Hagia Sophia museum, Trabzon, 2002
Hagia Sophia museum, Trabzon, 2002

The Hagia Sophia (Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, meaning "Holy Wisdom"; Turkish: Ayasofya), now the Hagia Sophia Museum, is a former church and mosque located in the city of Trabzon in the north-eastern part of Turkey. It dates back to the 13th century when Trabzon was the capital of the Empire of Trebizond. It is one of a few Byzantine sites still extant in the area.

The Hagia Sophia church was built in Trapezunt during the reign of Manuel I between 1238 and 1263. After Mehmed II conquered the city in 1461 the church was converted into a mosque. During the brief period of the city in Russia's hands during World War I, the site was used by the Russian military as a makeshift hospital and depot. Afterwards it was put back into use as a mosque, until 1964 when it was turned into a museum which it remains to this day. From 1958-64 the site was restored with the help of Edinburgh University and the General Directorate of Foundations.

The Hagia Sophia is an important monument of the late Byzantine architecture, being characterised by a high central dome and the four large column arches supporting the weight of the dome and ceiling. The ornamenting and art inside and outside the church reflects the periods of both Byzantine and Ottoman reign. The late 13th-century frescos, revealed during the most recent restoration, illustrate the New Testament themes, while external stone ornamenting is in keeping with local traditions of Islamic art.

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