OCP News Service – 6/7/2020
His All-Holiness Bartholomew
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
Rum Patrikliği, Dr Sadık Ahmet Cad. No. 19, 34083
Statement on the Status of the Hagia Sofia
Dear Respected Your All-Holiness,
Hagia Sofia Cathedral happens to remain the first Royal church in Turkey. When Constantine was the Emperor of Constantinople, he took leadership to construct this church and consecrated the church in AD 360. The church was named MEGA EKKLESIA. However, this got renamed very shortly as Hagia Sofia meaning the Source of Holy Wisdom, because Temple of God always provides Holy Wisdom. In the domestic violence that followed deportation of Patriarch Mar John Chrysostom (Golden Tongued Ivanios), city dwellers burnt this church totally in 404. Though rebuilt immediately, this was again devastated in 532 in the Revolt of Nika.
After this, Emperor Justinian took several efforts by bringing in architects and other experts from distinct parts of the world as King Solomon did in the past and rebuilt the church as an elegant structure. After the Consecration, Justinian exclaimed, “Oh! Solomon, I have outdone you!” The consecration was done in 537. As days and years progressed, there were attractive and meaningful icons to adorn the walls of this church. Consequent to Islamic invasion and their overpowering the traditional dynasty, this Cathedral got destructed to the extent that the Holy Sanctuary was devastated; the icons were damaged and at the end, the church got transformed as a mosque. However, their efforts to dismantle the icons totally did not succeed; they remained with less splendour. They replaced Biblical verses engraved on the walls with verses from Koran. Yet, the leaders claimed they did not touch Christianity; they only overthrew the regime.
As of now, Hagia Sofia is a museum. While reshaping it as a museum, expertise from England was called, and they renovated all the icons, but they could not bring back the original sheen. Now, though not a church or a place of worship, the structure is beautiful and attractive. We hope for it recovering its original status as Source of Holy Wisdom, as it is a tremendous blessing that it rediscovers the lost character. Yet, we are under threat that there may be further damages; let us pray and hope that it would not happen and remains as such till the second coming of our Lord.
Global: Statement from George Joseph – Chairman of the Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE Society on the status of the Hagia Sofi Cathedral.
OCP News Service