Hagia Sophia in Context: An Archaeological Re-examination of the Cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople [Hardback]

Ken Dark (Author); Jan Kostenec (Author)

ISBN: 9781789250305 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2019 | Language: English 152p, H280 x W216 (mm)

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Hagia Sophia in Context


The Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia has been a source of wonder and fascination since its sixth-century construction. It was the premier monument of the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, and remains one of the most recognisable symbols of modern Istanbul. Often seen as encapsulating Byzantine history and culture, the building has been the subject of much scholarly interest since the Renaissance. However, while almost all previous archaeological work has focussed on the church itself, the surrounding complex of ecclesiastical buildings has been largely neglected. The research project presented here (co-directed by the authors) is the first to focus on the archaeology of the immediate environs of the church in order to understand the complex as a whole. Previously unrecorded material includes parts of the Patriarchal complex, from which the Orthodox Church was governed for almost a millennium, what may be the ‘Great Baptistery’ north of the church, and what are perhaps the first fragments of the fourth-century phase of the cathedral yet identified. The discovery of an unrecognised porch, surviving to its full height within the standing building, changes the known plan of the famous sixth-century church. This new information provides fresh evidence about the appearance and function of the complex, illustrating its similarities to, and dissimilarities from, episcopal centres elsewhere in the Byzantine world. Combined with other archaeological sources, these discoveries enable us to place the sixth-century cathedral in its urban context and to reconsider what Hagia Sophia can tell us about the wider Byzantine world.

Table of Contents

Terminology and conventions
Chapter 1: Introduction
The Patriarchal complex
The Hagia Sophia Project 2004–2018
Methods and practical constraints
Chapter 2: The undiscovered church: Hagia Sophia before Justinian
Fourth-century structures
Fifth-century structures
Features below the sixth-century church identified in other recent work
Chapter 3: New light on Justinian’s Hagia Sophia
Buttress piers, their external staircase towers and the corner staircases in the base of the dome
The Vestibules
The access ramps
Newly recorded sixth-century decoration
Marble veneer on the church exterior
Structures southwest of the Justinianic church: the Patriarchal palace
Structures surrounding the Large Hall
The southwest vestibule of the church
The Baptistery south of the church
A large rectilinear structure north of the sixth-century church
Marble paving around the church and evidence for surrounding courtyards
Archaeology and liturgy in Justinian’s church
Chapter 4: Revealing the Byzantine cathedral: Hagia Sophia after Justinian
The Skeuophylakion
North-east and south-east vestibules
The north-east ramp
Post-sixth-century modifications to the Patriarchate
Identifying the Large Hall and associated structures with the later textually-attested additions to the Patriarchal palace
The Baptistery
The buttresses
The south-west buttress
The south middle buttress
The north middle buttress
The north-east buttress
The west flying buttresses
The remaining buttresses
Archaeology and liturgy after the sixth century
Chapter 5: Sixth-century Hagia Sophia in its wider context
Hagia Sophia in the context of surrounding structures and landscape features
Building Orthodoxy in sixth-century Constantinople

Reviews & Quotes

"This is a thorough and valuable addition to present knowledge on this key site, for which the authors should be applauded. It will best be appreciated by those with an existing familiarity with the church, rather than serving as an introduction to this awesome survival from Late Antiquity. Many of its findings are genuinely revelatory, resulting in some necessarily dense passages; it is richly illustrated with plans and photographs…"
Michael Shapland
Medieval Archaeology (05/10/2022)

"[A]n important read for those who want as much information as possible about the whole complex of the church."
Robin Cormack
Journal of Greek Archaeology (20/12/2022)

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