Sample Research Paper on Hagia Sophia and Mosque of Selim II

The church of Hagia Sophia is located at Istanbul, Turkey and was built in the 532-537 CE. Justinian I was the emperor of Byzantine and he ordered the construction of the church. Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles were the designers for the church which was later dedicated to wisdom of God. Its structure incorporates of a nave with a central dome which measures between 31.24 to 30.86 meters. Inside the church, we have the mihrab, minbar and minarets which are instruments of Muslim faith. In the mid 20th century, the churn was securitized by Kemal Ataturk to be a museum. Selim II mosque on the other hand was built under the instruction of Sultan Selim II.   The dome weight 2000 ton and 43.28 meters high. This makes it attractive features of the mosque. The dome is supported by eight pillars. The minaret is built with elegant materials with balconies extending by 85 meters high and 3.8 meters diameter. They are located on the northeast and west of the building with three stairs on the two minarets. The courtyard is rectangular in shape characterized by a water tank. The tank is pot-shaped Sadirvan made using white marbles. There are similarities and differences in regards to the structure of the two historical buildings. Therefore, this essay will focus on the differences and similarities in structure of the two buildings.

The first section will deal with the similarities as observed on the structures. The first similarity is on the dome. The symbolic meaning of the dome is vast space and centralization of the population in the city. In fact, during the ottoman reign the population was faced by threats of separation due to war. Thus, Ottoman authorized the building of mosques where the population would meet regularly for updates on the development in the war. This would help advice and inform the population when need arose.

Figure 1 represents the inside view of the central dome Selim II

The figure above includes interior design of done. This dome is built in such a manner that it resembles the mosaic symbols of worship. The circular structure of the dome represents oneness of community and circle of life which begins at birth and ends at death. At the same time, the community is expected to live in harmony and contributes to one goal and vision (Alto Bauer and Klein 16).

The dome at the Hagia Sophia have four pendentives that are spherical triangular in shape. The buttresses support the dome where the inside is known as the nave.  This is shown in the figure below.

Figure 2 represents the dome at Hagai Sophia

From the above figure, the dome is surrounded by twenty four windows that allow the distribution of the weight to the pendentives. This prevents collapse of the wall and the dome itself culminating from natural phenomenon such as earthquakes (Alto Bauer and Klein).

The second thing or a feature that is similar in the structures of the two buildings includes the minarets. This is the section used for prayers by the Muslims. The image of Irene Ducas holding mosaic laws is inscribed on the wall in this section. The laws were used by the Christians in perfuming their rituals in the church. The same section is seen in the mosque and it is used for prayers by the followers. Thus, it is an important section in the building for the Muslim community. There are also instruments of worship or prayers inscribed in the wall. At the same time, the mihrab is found in the two scenarios. The miche is symbolic of Mecca which is believed to be the cradle land of Muslims. The design of the church was greatly influenced by the Muslim faith due to the inclusion of mihrab and minbar which are symbolic instruments of worship in the Muslim community (Alto Bauer and Klein 15). The inclusion of these structures in the building of the church symbolized the ruling regime during the construction. At the same time, the dome was used in worship centers to show togetherness and closeness amongst human beings. These were values that were highly emphasized by the religious and political leaders during this time.

On the contrary, there are differences in the structure of Hagia Sophia and Selim II. The first difference is that Hagia Sophia church has twenty four pillars that support the dome. The design has changed over time due to renovation done on its’ upon destruction by natural events and human activities such as rioting. There are windows underneath the dome that help reduce weight as well as allow light to reflect inside. The windows are forty in number below the dome. The number of pillars differs where the mosque is built on eight pillars that are incised around the square walls. The interior is decorated with ceramic hence giving it a finishing that is impressive to the visitors as well as users. At the same time, Muslims sit on the floor during worship hence the use of ceramic ensures that cleanliness is observed. The second difference is that the mosque is built alongside libraries, baths, soup kitchens, cemetery, markets and schools. This ensures that the compound to which the building is erected is enough for other development (Alto Bauer and Klein 26). Therefore, a lot of activities took place in the mosque unlike in the church where the worship structure stood on its own.

Each of the building represents the architecture of the period it was built. Architectural development changed over time hence structures portrayed different designs. Hagia Sophia church was constructed in 537 AD. The building has been transformed from an orthodox cathedral through imperial mosques to a museum (Dr. Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis 21). Through the design have changed throughout these years, the original design still remain intact despite strengthening of the pillars and the walls. The construction of the dome was a new feature in the building industry. Thus, the dome was representative of the period. It was used to show the cycle of life in human being. Moreover, the dome was a sign of love and connection between one human being and the other. This helped the ruling regime in uniting the community for the common goal of fighting their enemies.  During this time, war was rampant and communities needed to work together to fight together. Thus, it acted as a central point of connection and ruling the community for the ruling body. The Selim II mosque on the other hand was erected on 1569 (DORFFNER, et al. 12). The Islamic architecture which included a hospital, baths, libraries and schools were introduced during this time. It idea and design spread to other regions where mosques that were built later in the seventeen century encompassed all the above features. Therefore, these buildings portrayed development to the structural components of the building industry for worship centers. These buildings were commissioned by the rulers hence symbolically represented the power in the community (Teteriatnikov 59). They were also strategically located to ease the process of congregation. The proximity would allow a lot of people come and listen to what the leaders had to tell them.

In conclusion, architecture was highly valued by communities and it symbolized common interests and shared values. In particular, worship centers were built in such a manner that they resembled and outlined the specific values that each religion advocated for. For example, the inclusion of Mary (mother of Jesus) and Jesus in the orthodox cathedral represented Christianity. This is because Christian believes in Jesus and they pray through him and his mother. Immediately, ottoman took power, he ordered the change and destruction of these symbols so that he could restructure the building to resemble a mosque. The items to be placed inside the building would also be related to Muslim faith after the takeover. Thus, the replacement would transition the purpose of the structure from being a church to becoming a mosque. Due to the change in weather and natural phenomenon in the past, the buildings had to be renovated and modified to ensure that they remain intact. This would alter the original design that the architectural engineers developed in the past. In most cases, some structures such as the church were inhabitable due to destruction that took place. Thus, renovation was necessary to ensure that they become habitable once again. In the current situation, architecture has become sophisticated due to increased development in technology.



Works Cited

Alto Bauer, Franz, and Holger A. Klein. “The Church of Hagia Sophia in Bizye (Vize): Results of the Fieldwork Seasons 2003 and 2004.” Columbia University in the City of New York, Harvard University Press, 4 Feb. 2009, Accessed 17 May 2017.


Dorffner, Lionel, et al. “Hagia Sophia – Photogrammetric Record Of A World Cultural Heritage.” International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Istanbul Technical University, 3 Mar. 2010, Accessed 17 May 2017.


Dr. Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis. “Mimar Sinan, Mosque of Selim II, Edirne.” Smarthistory, Smarthistory, 8 May 2015, Accessed 17 May 2017.


Kleiner, Fred S, and Helen Gardner. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.


Teteriatnikov, Natalia B. “Mosaics of Hagia Sophia, Itanbul:The Fossati Restoration and the Work of the Byzantine Institute.” Dumbarton Oaks, Dumbarton Oaks, 6 Feb. 2012, Accessed 17 May 2017


List of Figures

Figure 1 represents the inside view of the central dome Selim II…………………………………2

Figure 2 represents the dome at Hagai Sophia…………………………………………………….3