Term paper on Temple of Aphaia and Church of Hagia Sophia


Temple of Aphaia and Church of Hagia Sophia are the examples of architectural art separated by about 10 centuries. Temple of Aphaia was built in the early-classical period of ancient Greek architecture, while Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, having borrowed some forms of ancient architecture, factually represented their significant modification and turned into a construction of differing much from both ancient Greek architecture and ancient Christian basilicas. Still, both of them were consistent with the spirit of each of the particular nation and the particular conditions of these nations’ religious beliefs and rituals reflected in temple architecture, the specificities of which are discussed further.


Cultural and architectural specificities of Temple of Aphaia and Church of Hagia Sophia

Already in the 7th century BC, Aegina Island became the priority sea power and, apparently, was the first of the Greek cities to start manufacturing coins (Pedley 72). Traditionally associated with Sparta and the Peloponnesian world, the island long remained a strong opponent of Athens from the sea, until it suffered two big defeats and the siege in 457 BC and was finally conquered at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. In its period of its maximum prosperity, the island, famous for bronze manufactory and production of ceramic products, got enriched with various shrines, the most outstanding of which was Temple of Aphaia. Temple of Aphaia was built around 500 BC on the site of an older temple in order to honor ancient Greek goddess Aphaia, the patroness of the island and the goddess of fertility, wealth, and agricultural work (Pedley 116). Similarly, Church of Hagia Sophia was also constructed in times of economic and cultural prosperity of the Byzantine Empire.

Indeed, Church of Hagia Sophia, the title of which in Greek means “Church of Holy Wisdom of God” (Detorakis and Yavi 5), is famous monument of Byzantine architecture, the symbol of the “golden age” of Byzantium. During the Byzantine Empire times, the cathedral was situated in the center of Constantinople, near the Imperial Palace. The first buildings of the temple were implemented in the marketplace Avgusteon in 324-337 at the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, but that temple was burned during a popular uprising in 404, as well as the church that was built on this site in 415 (Detorakis and Yavi 12-14). Further, the Emperor Theodosius II ordered to build a new basilica on the same site, which was done in the same year, but Basilica of Theodosius was burned in 532 during the Nika revolt (Detorakis and Yavi 16). The modern cathedral was completed by 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was a joint product of the Greek architects Anthemius of Tralles, and Isidore of Miletus (Mainstone 61). The main task of the church in all its majesty and splendor was to symbolize the imperial essence of Rome and the understanding of God in Christianity (Ray 54).

Thus, for more than a thousand years Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was the biggest church in the Christian world, until the construction of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. In the building plan the cathedral is a long rectangle (75.6 m long and 68.4 m wide) forming three naves: the middle one is large, and the side ones are narrower (Mainstone 25). It is a basilica with quadrangular omphalos topped with a dome with a diameter of 31 meters and a height of 55.6 meters (Mainstone 26). Unlike Hagia Sophia, Temple of Aphaia is not too large in its size, having 30.5 m in length and 15.5 m in width, and represents itself is a Doric peripter, i.e. the temple with a nucleus (cella) surrounded on the perimeter by Doric order colonnade (Pedley 117). The building has perfectly proportions, balanced metric and rhythmic structure, which demonstrates the end of the archaic period and has a premonition of some shapes of the upcoming classical period of Doric temples development.

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