It is said that when Byzantine Emperor Justinian entered the great church known as the Hagia Sophia for the first time in the year 527 he said, “Oh, Soloman, I have outdone thee.” He was referring to King Soloman’s Temple, which had a reputation of beauty and excellence. The emperor had commissioned the enormous, domed building in the city of Constantinople.
The name Hagia Sophia means Holy Wisdom, and the church is also known as the Pearl of Constantinople. Hailed for its wondrous beauty and magnificent dome; for its structure, enormous size and for its engineering; the Hagia Sophia has also been esteemed throughout the centuries for its artistic programs of mosaics, marbles and stone. It has been remembered for its golden vaults and gilded-silver walls. It was the seat and center of the Eastern Orthodox Church until 1453.
It has been named one of the Seven Wonders of the World. These are all great accomplishments, but perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Hagia Sophia may be that this church has a long reputation for its endurance and ability to survive and transcend centuries filled with adversity from decades of iconoclasm during the Middle Ages, earthquakes, war, and conquest. Perhaps the most astonishing thing of all is that in spite of each of these hardships, and after almost 1500 years, the Hagia Sophia still stands. In addition to its beauty, size, structural accomplishments, artistic offerings and history, it is especially her endurance and perseverance that the Hagia Sophia is best known for.