Istanbul: the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia was built in 532 ad by Emperor Justinian in just five years. It was an amazing architectural feat, a massive building of columns and arches built above a cistern of columns and arches. 

It was also built over the temple of Apollo and  churches built by Constantine and then Theododius in the fourth and fifth centuries. It was a symbol of a new era of Christianity in an empire that killed the Apostle Paul three hundred years before.

The inside is the church is lit by clear windows. The windows created flexibility in earthquakes, but it also lit the ceilings covered with gold mosaics. This was the largest dome in the sixth century, and still the fourth largest dome in the world. 

The gold mosaic ceiling--24 million pieces of gold just in the dome--would have dazzled with the light streaming through. Heaven lighting earth. What did those believers experienced as they entered this massive, dazzling space? What hope did it give worshipers, as they entered space larger than anything they had ever seen?

The mosaic at the entrance of the sanctuary is Jesus holding the bible in his hand with the words, "I am the light of the world."  

As Rome fell and Constantinople became the New Rome, St. Augustine dreamed of a City of God, the New Jerusalem that was more spiritual than political. As followers of Christ we long to see the light of the Kingdom of God break into our world. 

John wrote: I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it... The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 21:22-22:5


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