As we descend from the southwest of Sultanahmet Square, we come across a small mosque which gives the name of the neighborhood where the Cankurtaran and Kadırga districts intersect. Contrary to its small and modest appearance, Little Hagia Sophia is a structure that opens a new era with its architecture and contains interesting stories.
Built as a church, the real name was Sergios and Bakhos Church. The church was started to be built in 527 by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I (Justinianos / Justinianus) and his wife Theodora. The construction of the church was only completed in 536 when it was damaged during the Nika Uprising. The church was named after two soldiers, Sergios and Bakhos, who were killed by torture because of their conversion to Christianity and later brought to sainthood. According to the legend; Justinian and his uncle Justin, who were sentenced to death for alleged involvement in a conspiracy against Emperor Anastasius I (Anastasius), waited for their execution in the morning, when Saint Sergios and Saint Bakhos entered the dream of Emperor Anastasios and said that they were not guilty. The affected emperor forgave Justinian and his uncle. When Justinian came to the throne, he built this church to show his gratitude to these two saints and gave the church the names of Saint Sergios and Saint Bakhos.
According to another legend; After the Emperor Anastasios I, the army was commanded by the army as the commander of the palace guards, but the village origin Justin was illiterate. Justin I left his nephew Justinian at the end of his reign as heir. Theodora, the wife of Justinian, ascended to the throne, is a woman who is seen as a lightweight by the reaction of the Roman aristocracy because she is a dancer. Among those who reacted to Theodora were Anikia Juliana, one of the strongest women of the Roman aristocracy and a celebrated protector of the arts. Juliana chooses a different way to react; In order to show the power and religiosity of the Roman aristocracy, he had a magnificent church built in the name of Saint Polyeuktos of Melitene (Malatya) who was killed in 251: Ayios Polyeuktos. This church, which was built in the vicinity of Istanbul Municipality today, has not survived; It was damaged in the 1010 earthquake, looted by the Latins who entered the city in 1204 and the columns and some architectural pieces were moved to Venice with their relics. These pieces were brought to Venice and were used in St. Mark’s Basilica. San Marco’s famous Akka Columns, as the name suggests, did not go from the city of Akka in Palestine, but from the Polyeuktos Church in Istanbul. Theodora’s response to Anikia Juliana’s magnificent response was the Church of Sergios and Bakhos. Theodora’s monophysite tendencies are thought to have influenced the church to give the names of the patron saints of the city of Refesa, Sergios and Bakhos.
Another of the events described about Little Hagia Sophia is as follows; In 551, Pope Virjil came to Istanbul to meet with Emperor Justinian to settle a religious problem. As a result of the negotiations, the problem cannot be solved and the Pope’s attitude towards the problem does not appeal to the Emperor, while the Pope’s dominance and influence disturb the emperor. Realizing the Emperor’s intentions, the Pope left his palace in Istanbul and took refuge in the Church of Sergios and Bakhos in order to secure his life. However, the Emperor orders the Pope’s arrest. When the Pope sees the soldiers entering the church to fulfill the order, the Pope clings to the altar in the apse, the soldiers begin to pull his hair from his beard by the feet, but the Pope does not leave his place. Eventually, the mihrab ruptures and collapses on the soldiers. The soldiers will see this as a divine sign that they leave the Pope and leave.
The Church of Sergios and Bakhos was later regarded as one of the most important churches of the city. It is customary for the notables of the palace to come here once a year and organize a great commemoration. In the 9th century the church was abandoned to the Latin monks. It was believed that the priest, known as “The Fortune Teller with Pool inden, one of the leading priests of that period, looked into a pool of bright bronze and foretold the future.
Justinian I was almost a renaissance for Eastern Rome. Innovation and progress seen in many areas has also shown itself in architecture, various experimental works have been given and Istanbul is equipped with many different and ambitious buildings. Sergios and Bakhos Church is one of these works. The structure is in the form of an asymmetrical rectangle near the square. The cause of this asymmetric shape is not fully known. However, some sources mention that the Hormisdas Palace, a pavilion of the Great Palace, and a church built in the name of St. Peter and St. Paul. Although the exact locations of these structures are not known today, the Church of Sergios and Bakhos are
It may have been constructed as an asymmetrical quadrilateral due to its work.
The rectangular structure is supported by an undulating main dome, four half-arches and four half-domes, which cover the top of the columns arranged in an octagonal manner, thus expanding the interior of the structure. Thanks to this half-dome model, which is used for the first time, an extra width is provided both indoors and the transfer of the weight of the large domes to the adjacent half domes opens the way for making larger main domes. In this respect, Little Hagia Sophia was a small scale experiment of the “Big” Hagia Sophia, which will be built a few years after it. After the conquest of Istanbul, the half-domed model, which proved its success with a monumental structure like Hagia Sophia, also influenced Turkish architecture and formed the basis of the domed image which is the trademark of today’s mosques. Before the conquest of Istanbul, Turkish mosque architecture was based on relatively small domes placed on a square structure. When a large mosque was to be built, a few of these buildings were brought together side by side. After the influence of Hagia Sophia and consequently Little Hagia Sophia, Turkish architects started to use half-side domes and built dome waterfalls consisting of gigantic main domes and half-domes supporting each other. Likewise, the octagonal structure in which the dome of the Little Hagia Sophia was built was used in many works by Turkish architects, especially Mimar Sinan. For example, in the Rüstem Pasha and Selimiye mosques, the dome is built on an octagonal structure.
Just after the partial success of the Italian campaign, Justinian built another church, San Vitale, in the town of Ravenna, which once again joined Roman territory. The plan of this church, which was completed in 547, is the same plan of the Church of Sergios and Bakhos. More interestingly, he built a large and majestic cathedral in Aachen, the capital of the empire of Charlemagne, the founder of the Holy Roman German Empire. The plans of this building, which is called the Aachen Cathedral or the Imperial Cathedral, are the same as those of the Church of Sergios and Bakhos, based on the plans of the San Vitale Church. In other words, Suleymaniye and Selimiye mosques on one side and Aachen Cathedral on the other. Two different architectures developed by two different civilizations and these monumental monuments, which are unlike any other, were originally derived from the humble Little Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
Little Hagia Sophia, the oldest place of worship of Istanbul from the Roman period, was damaged during the Nika Rebellion in 532 while still under construction. Then, during the 9th century iconoclasm, some of the interior decorations were damaged but they were repaired within the same century. The biggest damage was in the Latin invasion of 1204. After the conquest of Istanbul, the church was not immediately converted into a mosque. The building continued to be used as a church during the reign of Sultan Mehmet II. In the period of Bayezid, according to some, 1497 and in 1504, Bâbüssaâde Ağası (Gate Master) of the palace was converted into a mosque by Hüseyin Ağa. Small Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque by the people of the neighborhood because of its similarity with the original Hagia Sophia. After he was converted to a mosque, he continued to be called with this name instead of Hüseyin Ağa’s name.
During the conversion of the building to a mosque, all the interior decorations were changed. The interior, which was thought to have been completely covered with marble and mosaics at the time it was built, is now covered with plaster. However, the monograms of Justinian and Theodora can be seen at the tops of lace-like columns and Greek inscriptions on the frieze decorated with acanthus leaves surrounding the entire interior from the level of the upper gallery floor. In these writings, the Emperor and his wife were praised with expressions such as Aziz Saint Iustinianus, who promotes religiosity The and Theodora, crowned by God. There is no mention of Saint Bakhos in the articles which have also been praised about Saint Sergios. The full text of the writing in the frieze is as follows; “Although other rulers exalt the reputation of the mortals whose works do not provide any benefit, our ruler Justinian is the slave of Christ, the creator of all creatures, whose faith is not shaken by flame, sword, or other tortures, and he is eternal by shedding his blood for Christ’s love. He built this supreme building in order to glorify and respect Sergios, who earned the merit of life, and to ensure the popular interest of the people. Let Sergios always preserve and protect the state of our supreme ruler and increase the might of Theodora, crowned by God, who has great compassion and is tireless in his work to feed the fukara. ”
Grape bunches and leaf reliefs in the architraves where the eight main columns bearing the dome meet with the frieze
It was claimed that a temple built in the name of Bakus, the god of wine, was built in his place and that Bakhos named after him came from here. During the conversion to the mosque, many windows were opened in accordance with the Ottoman architectural features and some windows were closed by walling; mihrab, pulpit and muezzin mahfili were added to the interior. Until recently, in one corner of the mosque, there was the famous Osmanlı tulumba olan, the famous instrument of the Ottoman firefighters. Although this fire extinguisher is considered to be Turkish work, the real inventor of the device is a Frenchman who takes the name of David as a Muslim. The small pool in the place where Tulum was located was used for baptism during the church period, and after being converted to a mosque, it was used as a place of ablution, but today it is filled with concrete.
With the conversion to the mosque, the last congregation area, which was covered with 5 small domes, was added to the western facade of the building, and zaviye rooms were built around the courtyard to be used as a madrasah. These rooms, where those who fled to Istanbul during the Balkan Wars, are used as workshops / shops where traditional handicrafts are produced and sold. A minaret independent of the main building was added to the southwest corner of the building. It is not known today how the first minaret was added. However, this minaret is replaced by a baroque style minaret built by Grand Vizier Mustafa Pasha in the 18th century. Built on an octagonal base, this minaret is known to be a classic cone covered with lead, with an honorable baroque ornaments and flat plate-shaped railings. However, this minaret was demolished to its base in 1936 due to an unknown reason. In 1955, its minaret was added to the structure which remained without a minaret for a while. Located in the courtyard of the mosque, was built in 1740 by Grand Vizier Ahmed Pasha, octagonal shaped marble fountain was destroyed in 1938. The tomb on the left side of the entrance to the garden of the mosque Sultan II. It belongs to Hüseyin Ağa, Bayezid’s Gate Master. The mosque was converted to the Little Hagia Sophia and its immediate vicinity, the Çardaklı Bath, the Door Ağa Madrasah and the Bazaar in Amasya. is understood to be extremely rich. As a matter of fact, this wealth leads to business, and he is sentenced to death by order of Sultan. Bostancıbaşılar catch Hüseyin Ağa in the garden of the Little Hagia Sophia, where he has turned him into a mosque, and they immediately shoot his head.
According to a story told by the public, Hüseyin Ağa’s head gets up and gets his cut head under his arm after he was shot, he walks in this situation for a while and his mausoleum is built where he piled up. Hüseyin Ağa is nicknamed ik kesikbaş sonra after his execution. Inside the tomb lies Mehmet Kamil Efendi (1911) and another unknown person. One of the ward gates of the Sultanahmet Prison rests on a tree in the garden of the Mosque. We learn from Hüseyin Ağa’s foundations that during the earthquake of 1648, the plaster of the building was poured and the glass was broken, and in 1763 the building was damaged and the architect Ahmet Ağa was assigned for the restoration. The railway, which was built in 1870-1871 to pass 5 meters next to the building, caused great damage to the building. According to the sources, the stones of the southern walls were poured at each train crossing. For this reason, this wall was rebuilt in 1877 with the Ottoman knitting system. The railroad, which was initially 1 meter above ground level, was raised 3 meters above ground level in the 1950s, thereby reducing the damage to the building.
The facade of the building, which had two major restorations in 1937 and 1955, was previously plastered and whitewashed; The last restoration work started in 2002 ended in 2006 after a controversial process.