On the 27th December 537, Hagia Sophia was inaugurated by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and Patriarch Menas of Constantinople. The current building is the third church of Holy Wisdom to be built on the site, after the first two were destroyed in separate riots and revolts. However the third church’s long history saw it serve as both a Greek Orthodox cathedral and a Roman Catholic cathedral, before Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. He ordered it be converted into a mosque, which it remained until being secularised and reopened as a museum on the 1st February 1935.

The architects of the enormous basilica were the physicist Isidoros of Miletos and mathematician Anthemios of Tralles who, as the first to put together a comprehensive compilation of the mathematical theories of Archimedes, was clearly heavily influenced by the Greek academic. The two architects devised a series of complex vaults and semi-domes surrounding a high central dome with a diameter of over 31 meters. Supported by four marble-clad arches, this dome is probably the most immediately recognisable part of the building although it is not the original structure. The first dome collapsed during an earthquake on the 7th May 558, and was rebuilt over the next four years.

After Mehmed II was victorious in what became known in the west as the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, he ordered the basilica be converted into a mosque. This involved stripping it of Christian iconography but also building the four minarets that surround the central dome and are now a major part of the Istanbul skyline.

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