Externally St. Sophia is very simple because its bare brick walls are void of any ornamentation. Even the famous dome seems somewhat heavy from the outside. At present St. Sophia is lost among the Turkish houses which surround it. In order to appreciate fully all the grandeur and splendor of the temple one must see it from the inside.
In former days the temple had a spacious court, the atrium, surrounded by porticoes in the center of which stood a beautiful marble fountain. The fourth side of the atrium adjoining the temple was a sort of outer porch or closed gallery (narthex) connected by five doors with the second inner porch. Nine bronze doors led from this porch into the temple; the central widest and highest royal door was intended for the emperor. The temple itself, approaching in its architecture the type of domed basilicas, forms a very large rectangle with a magnificent central nave over which rises an enormous dome 31 meters in circumference, constructed with unusual difficulty at the height of 50 meters above the earths surface. Forty large windows at the base of the dome let abundant light spread through the entire cathedral. Along both sides of the central nave were constructed two-storied arches richly decorated with columns. The floor and the columns are of many-colored marble, which was used also for parts of the walls. Marvelous mosaics, painted over in the Turkish period, formerly enchanted the eyes of the visitors. Particularly deep was the impression made upon pilgrims by the enormous cross at the top of the dome shining upon a mosaic-starred sky. And even today one can distinguish, under the Turkish painting in the lower part of the dome, the large figures of winged angels.
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