Essay on Temple of Aphaia and Church of Hagia Sophia

In particular, being the representative of the hexa-style, Temple of Aphaia has 24 columns of the first and second tier: 6 columns in front of facades and 12 on the sides. In the interior, there were 2 columns in pronaos and opistodome between antae (Pedley 119). Inside there was a cella with sculpted statue of the goddess, which unfortunately has not survived to the present time, and a pool of olive oil for libations. The cella was divided into three naves by two rows consisting of five columns each, over which was the second order of the smaller columns supporting the ceiling. At the same time, the Temple on Aegina looks shortened, which clearly indicates the end of the archaic period: the column capitals are more extensive like in developed archaic period, but column themselves are already more narrow (Prokkola 76). Moreover, corner columns were intentionally thickened to instill a sense of power and smooth the optical effect of columns thinning (Prokkola 93).

In its turn, in Hagia Sophia basilica, the middle of the wide nave, square at the base, is bounded on the corners by four massive pillars holding up the huge arches, and covered with rather flat dome. This dome space is in the east and west adjacent to two niches with a hemispherical top: the eastern niche includes three smaller arched niches, the middle of which serves as an altar apse; the western big niche also involved three niches, the middle of which is representing not the hemispherical top, but ordinary basket-handle arc with three doors leading to esonartex and exonartex, once standing back of a courtyard, surrounded by the gallery of columns. The total number of columns makes 107, while some of them are the examples of ancient Greek architecture being Temple of Aphaia columns’ coevals (Mainstone 99).

Indeed, in addition to the high architectural value of Hagia Sophia’s building composition, the temple holds the remnants of many monumental buildings of ancient Rome and Greece, in particular, eight porphyry columns from the Temple of the Sun, eight green marble columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and porphyry columns of red marble from of the Apollo sanctuary at Baalbek (Mainstone 101-102). In addition to marble decorations, the temple was decorated with the unprecedented brilliance and luxury of gold, silver, ivory, as well as mosaics of the Macedonian dynasty period (both subject compositions and ornaments). Hagia Sophia’s mosaics show all three stages of neoclassicism development, as they were done in three stages (around the middle of the 9th century, at the turn of 9-10th centuries, and at the end of 10th century) and represent the images of Virgin, Jesus Christ, Archangel Gabriel, John the Baptist, and prophets (Mainstone 113-15).

Built of limestone and covered with painted plaster, Temple of Aphaia was in its turn decorated on the pediments and triglyphs with the sculptures devoted to Greek-Trojan War, the war that for the Greeks in the metaphorical form anticipated the clash of Greece with Eastern Asia, Persian despotism. Western pediment is preserved better (Pedley 123). It is more archaic; the positioning of figures is sustained by the principle of mirror symmetry. By the beginning of the 5th century BC this principle came into conflict with the more complex newer understanding of the relationship of figures united by the common action (Prokkola 65). Indeed, the mirror repetition of shapes and the patterned rhythm of the composition as a whole, increasing decorative expressiveness of the pediment reduce dramatic vitality of the statues themselves. Characteristically, the central axial figure of pediments – Goddess Aphaia ”“ is turned frontally; she stands like an idol taking part in this battle only symbolically and attributively: her shield protects Achaeans from the strikes of Trojans.

Nowadays, Temple of Aphaia is one of the best preserved monuments of ancient Greek architecture, while Church of Hagia Sophia had a long and sophisticated history of turning from the greatest Christian church into a mosque, and finally into a museum an cultural centre still widely visited.




In general, due to its majestic architecture and decoration, Church of Hagia Sophia as the main sanctuary of the entire Empire inspired the idea of the power of both the Byzantine Empire and the Christian religion. This was realized through the sizes of the cathedral designed for thousands of crowds, its luxury interiors and decorative marble mosaics, as well as through the splendor of the ceremonies that took place in the church. It is in the building of a new type, the domical Basilica of St. Sophia, that the characteristic trends towards “grandeur, majestic splendor and solemnity in the 6th century Byzantine art” (Ray 140) are expressed most consistently. In turn, in Greece of the 5th century BC, the comprehension of the divine beauty was paralleled with the comprehension of sculptural beauty, and one clearly merged with another. Thus, the columns of Aphaia Temple are the anticipation of the peak of art, some sense of approaching perfect harmony. This harmony is anthropomorphic and sculptured, similarly to anthropomorphic and sculpted Olympic gods the temple is devoted to. At the same time, the Greek temple in no way resembled huge buildings inspiring religious fear and veneration, but was rather cheerful and friendly mansions for humanlike gods, arranged like the dwellings of ordinary mortals, though more elegant and rich. Being differed in the essence to that huge extent, the small, delicate, almost intimate temple in Aegina and huge, majestic, monumental temple in Istanbul still carry the same aesthetic principle: bring the sense of peace and balance, generosity and spirituality, ennoble and elevate the soul of a human.

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