You can find Byzantine mosaics in Hagia Sophia (Ayasofa Museum) in Istanbul, turkey. Hagia Sophia used to be a patriarchal basilica but later on, it was used as a mosque. At present, it is now called Ayasofa Museum. Because if its enormous dome, Hagia Sophia became very popular and it was even considered as Byzantine architecture’s epitome. For thousands of years, it was recognized as the biggest cathedral all throughout the world but in 1520, Seville Cathedral was proclaimed the largest.
The Hagia Sophia was constructed between 532AD – 537AD as ordered by the Justinian, a Byzantine Emperor. Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus designed the original building. For about 1,000 years, it served as the focal point of religious activities. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque as ordered by Sultan Mehmed II. The sacrificial vessels, iconostasis, altar, and the bells were removed. The Hagia Sophia was full of mosaics and these too were plastered over. The mosaics were covered because Islam does not believe in representational imagery.
The Byzantine Institute in the US started restoration works only in the twentieth century. Some of the mosaics were uncovered but not all of them due to the building’s long history. The restoration process was already a challenge to the institute. Iconographic mosaics are now gradually being uncovered but the restorers are attempting to balance the Islamic and Christian cultures. In order to uncover the iconographic mosaics, some of the Islamic arts need to be shattered.
Many spectators are asking if mosaics can be found under the dome of the building. According to studies, the dome of the Hagia Sophia had a mosaic of Christ but it was replaced with Islamic calligraphy. Restorers are not sure whether the Islam removed the mosaic before creating the calligraphy. The southern gallery was restored and only a part of the Christ Pantocrator was restored. This mosaic dates back to the 12th century.
Byzantine mosaics were greatly influenced by the Greeks but their classical heritage lived on. Archeological sites in the Middle East revealed 19-20th century Byzantine mosaics. Christian mosaics became very popular during the 4th century in Eastern Roman and this tradition was carried on until the 8th century (Umayyad Era). Some of the famous mosaics during this time are the one found in Mount Nebo, Madaba Map, Mount Sinai (St. Catherine Monastery), and St. Stephen church. Other Byzantine mosaic works can also be found in the Aachen Palatine Chapel and in Castalseprio (Church of Maria).
The Byzantine arts have influenced Western Europe until the Renaissance period. Mosaic is a form of art loved by different artists from all over the world. Through centuries, the breathtaking mosaics of the ancient people have survived and now, people can marvel at its beauty and wonder. The mosaics alone reveal a lot of information about the past as well as its rich history. Restoration works should be supported so that more of these mosaics can be uncovered. The ancient Byzantine mosaics can serve as inspiration to new artists of today.
If the ancient artists can create great mosaic works, then today’s artists can also create do it with the help of modern technology. Still, people need to appreciate the Byzantine mosaics because of its rich history. Check out the uncovered Byzantine mosaics now. There are lots of mosaics to see which are found in different locations.