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The Church of St. Sophia
In none of the churches of Constantinople could the mind reach a greater sense of spiritual depth and nobility than in the so-called "Great Church" of St. Sophia. This was almost certainly Justinian's greatest architectural achievement. It is very characteristic of the spiritual life in the Eastern Roman Empire in the days of Justinian, that the Emperor chose to build, as his own greatest church --which was also intended to be the greatest church in the world-- a shrine dedicated to Christ as "Hagia Sophia" or Holy Wisdom in English. Christ, the Wisdom (Sophia) and Power( dynamis) of God, in St. Paul's words, was a manifestation of the holy trinity, projecting the action of God from the realm of the divine to the world of man. It is by no means coincidence that the chief temples of Pagan Athens and Christian Constantinople were both dedicated to Wisdom. The Parthenon as the shrine of the Goddess Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, and Justinian's Great Church both showed respect for "Sophia" which has always been one of the chief traits of the Greek mind. Christ as the Wisdom of God was a familiar idea to Greek Christianity; the Hymn of the Resurrection, sung during the Eucharist, invokes Christ as "the Wisdom and the Word and Power of God".
As with the design and fabric of the building, its decoration was chosen to produce a transcendent spiritual effect. Typically in Greek-Orthodox churches, applied ornament was concentrated on the inside leaving the outside to show the mass of the structure and bring out its geometric patterns of curves and lines, which the Byzantine mind so greatly appreciated. The interior decoration was sumptuous but risked being gaudy. It contained a richness indicative of the prosperity of the empire as a whole. Paul the Silentiary, one of the members of Justinian's court, wrote an elaborate description of the church in verse which shows what the magnificence of the decoration must have been like when St. Sophia was in its original state. Many lands, Paul tells us, sent their own characteristic marbles, each of with its distinct features; black stone from the Bosporus region, green marble from mainland Greece, polychrome stone from Phrygia, and porphyry from Egypt and yellow stone from Syria. The different stones were used in carefully planned combinations in the columns, in the pavement, and in the revetments of the walls. All this hapen about 1500 years before.

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Additional Photos by Nicephorus Phocas (CRATEOS) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1223 W: 133 N: 1457] (7278)
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