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Byzantine vs Roman Hagia Sophia vs. Pantheon


The Hagia Sophia basilica is located in Istanbul, Turkey, and was built by Isidore of Miletus and Anthemois of Tralles. It’s a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, then became an imperial mosque then finally a museum.

In 360 BC, Emperor Constantius – who was Constantine’s son - dedicated the Hagia Sophia. “Originally called Megle Ekklesia (Great Church); the name Hagia Sophia came into use around 430. First church structure destroyed during riots in 404; the second built and dedicated in 415 by Emperor Theodosis II, burnt down during Nika revolt of 532; which caused vast destruction and death throughout the city. Immediately after the riots, Justinian (527-65) ordered the church rebuilt. New building was inaugurated on Dec 27,537. Anthemois and Isidoros most likely were influenced by the mathematical theories of Archimedes (287-212 BC).

Hagia Sophia - Interior

Hagia Sophia - Interior

The basilica was a symbol of the Empire; and had a dome on top of a cube with 40 windows around the base of it. The central dome dimensions are 108f. Diameter, 180f high from apex to floor; with this it’s taller than the Pantheon by 40 feet. Inside, mosaics covered the interior, which were done in likeness of Christ, Virgin Mary, angels and saints. In support for the building, buttresses were added.


The Pantheon was originally built in 31 BC by Marcus Agrippa after the Battle of Actium, and was dedicated during his Third Consulship in 27 BC. It was rebuilt by Hadrian between 118-125 CE and he dedicated it to the Gods and deities of Rome, and in 609 the “ Byzantine Emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface IV, and the Pantheon went into being a Christian church and consecrated to Santa Maria and Martyres.”;


The size of the rotunda is “4,535m. Tons of Roman concrete on a ring of voussiors; 30 ft. in diameter to form the oculus, and eight barreled vaults carry it down into a 21 ft. thick wall into eight piers.”

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Inside of the dome stood the arched vaults of the Heavens. Light came in from the Oculus and the entry door as the only light source, so that the light moves during the day. The dome was 142’ in diameter and was the same height; the interior”was the orb of the Earth.”

Five rings of 28 panels are either numerical, geometric or lunar in nature. Checkerboard flooring contrasts with the circles in the dome. “Originally covered with gilded bronze rosettes, which must have glistened like the stars in heaven.” The oculus itself stands for Jupiter’s all Seeing Eye; and there was marble veneer and Corinthian columns at the base.

Works Cited:

Module 8 reading

Roman Architecture The Pantheon

© 2014 Jennifer B

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