Greek, "Holy Wisdom", also "Saint Sophia") was the cathedral of Constantinople (today's Istanbul, Turkey). The first church on the site was built by Constantine the Great, but was burned down during the Nika riots of 532. The building assumed its final form by 537 under emperor Justinian I. It was very important to early Orthodox Christianity and the Byzantine Empire, and is a prime example of Byzantine architecture. Of great artistic importance was its decorated interior with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. The temple itself was so richly and artistically decorated that Justinian is believed to have said Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών (Solomon, I have surpassed you!).
The Interior of Hagia Sophia, circa 1994
After continuing as a mosque for the early years of the republic of Turkey, in 1934 under Ataturk it was secularized and turned into the Ayasofya Museum. The exceptional floor and wall mosaics which had been cemented over in 1453 are now being gradually excavated.
Hagia Sophia is also the name of:
- The largest Byzantine church of Thessaloniki in Greece. It was built in the 8th century A.D. and was converted to a mosque by the Turks. In 1913 it was used again as a Christian church. Except from its interesting byzantine architecture and decoration the temple is known for its painting of Analipsis (Ascension) that is considered the most important monumental synthesis of the 9th century.
- A Christian church in Kiev. It was built in 1037 by Jaroslav, son of the prince Vladimir. Due its characteristic byzantine architecture and its internal decoration of frescoes and mosaics it is considered one of the most representative buildings of the 11th century.
- A Christian church in Novgoront (Novgorod) built by the prince Vladimir around 1050 A.D. based on the church in Kiev by the same name. Since the original temple was built under the prototype of the "New Church" in Constantinople, the Agia Sofia of Novgoront kept the byzantine character. The inscriptions on the frescoes that decorate the interior are in Greek.
- A Christian church in Sophia in Bulgaria, which gave its name to the city.
- A Christian church in Trapezous (Trabzon).