13 Sage Facts About the Hagia Sophia

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iStock

Once the largest cathedral in the world, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, has stood for more than 1500 years along the banks of the Bosporus Strait and has housed three religious groups.

1. THE CHURCH WAS TWICE DESTROYED BY RIOTS.

First built in Constantinople in 360 CE and dedicated by the Roman Emperor Constantius II (son of Constantine, the founder of Constantinople), the initial, wood-constructed Hagia Sophia burned during a series of riots in 404 CE. In 415 CE, Emperor Theodosius II ordered the church rebuilt, but the Nika Revolt in 532 CE caused widespread death and destruction in the city, and the church was wiped out a second time.

2. THE FIRST GREAT BYZANTINE RULER ORDERED ITS RECONSTRUCTION.

Located in the Eastern Roman Empire region known as Byzantium, Constantinople was ruled for 38 years by the Emperor Justinian, starting in 527 CE. Five years after the Nika Revolt and the church’s destruction, Justinian inaugurated the newly rebuilt Hagia Sophia, the most important religious structure in his empire, on December 27, 537 CE.

3. THE CHURCH HAS GONE BY SEVERAL NAMES.

Initially called the Great Church (Megale Ekklesia in Greek, Magna Ecclesia in Latin) because of its immense size, the second incarnation of the church came to be known by the name Hagia Sophia around 430 CE. Its Greek meaning, "Holy Wisdom," remained after the church was rebuilt a century later. After conquest by the Ottomans it was called Ayasofya, and today it is the Ayasofya Müzesi.

4. THE ORIGINAL DOME WAS REPLACED AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE IN 558 CE.

Soaring 160 feet high, with a diameter of 131 feet, the grand feature of the Hagia Sophia was its large central dome. The dome and the church were designed by architects Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletos, but unlike the dome of the Pantheon, which has never faltered, an earthquake in 558 CE caused the Hagia Sophia's dome to collapse. It was rebuilt to a height of 182 feet, and the walls were reinforced in 562 CE. The dome's weight is supported by a series of smaller domes, arcades, and four large arches.

5. ONE OF THE SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS WAS USED IN THE CHURCH'S CONSTRUCTION.

To fortify (and beautify) the interior of the church, columns from the long-abandoned and destroyed Temple of Artemis in Ephesus were used for the Hagia Sophia. Additional building materials may also have come from ancient sites in Baalbeck and Pergamom.

6. IT'S A GREAT EXAMPLE OF BYZANTINE ART AND ARCHITECTURE.

Byzantium nurtured a centuries-long tradition of art, architecture, knowledge, theology, and literature in a style that fused Greek, Roman, and other Eastern traditions. Long after the decline of the Roman Empire from which it sprang, the Byzantine ruler Justinian spearheaded a series of urban reconstruction projects following the Nika Revolt and started with the Hagia Sophia. The new cathedral included the massive dome atop a rectangular basilica, abundant mosaics that covered nearly every surface, stone inlays, columns and pillars of marble, bronze doors, a marble door, a large cross at the dome’s apex, and a square area on the floor of the nave, paved in marble, called the omphalion, a place where emperors were crowned.

7. ICONOCLASM LED TO THE REMOVAL OF MANY PIECES OF ART

Meaning “image breaking” or “the smashing of images,” the period of iconoclasm (from about 726-787 CE and 815-843 CE) raged when the state banned the production or use of religious images, leaving the cross as the only acceptable icon. Many mosaics and paintings from the Hagia Sophia were destroyed, taken away, or plastered over.

8. A 90-YEAR-OLD, BLIND VENETIAN ONCE CAPTURED HAGIA SOPHIA.

During the Fourth Crusade in 1203 CE, Alexius IV managed to convince the Crusaders to help him take the throne of the Byzantine Empire in exchange for a series of promises and rewards. But just months later, he was murdered in a palace coup. The powerful Doge Enrico Dandolo, the chief magistrate of the Republic of Venice who was over 90 years old and blind, led the Latin Christians on a siege of Constantinople. The city and the church were sacked and desecrated, many golden mosaics were taken back to Italy, and Dandolo was buried at Hagia Sophia after his death in 1205 CE.

9. THE CHURCH BECAME A MOSQUE FOR 500 YEARS.

Centuries of sackings, conquests, sieges, raids, and crusades came to an end in 1453 CE with the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, led first by Sultan Murad II and then his successor, Mehmed II. The city was renamed Istanbul, the church was looted for treasures, and Mehmed called for a restoration of the 900-year-old building and its conversion into a mosque.

10. A MULTITUDE OF ISLAMIC FEATURES WERE ADDED TO THE BUILDING.

To use the space as a mosque, the rulers ordered that a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit), and a fountain for ablutions be added to the Hagia Sophia. A succession of minarets was added to the exterior, and a school, kitchen, library, mausoleums, and sultan’s lodge joined the site over the centuries.

11. THE SULTAN PROTECTED CHRISTIAN MOSAICS.

Instead of destroying the numerous frescoes and mosaics on the Hagia Sophia walls, Mehmed II ordered they be whitewashed in plaster and covered in Islamic designs and calligraphy. Many were later uncovered, documented, or restored by the Swiss-Italian architects Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati.

12. BELIEVERS SAY THE 'WEEPING COLUMN' HAS HEALING POWERS.

Also called the "sweating column," the "wishing column," and the "perspiring column," the weeping column stands in the northwest portion of the church and is one of 107 columns in the building. The pillar is partly covered in bronze, with a hole in the middle, and it is damp to the touch. The alleged blessing of St. Gregory has led many to rub the column in search of divine healing.

13. THE FOUNDER OF MODERN TURKEY TURNED IT INTO A MUSEUM.

Former army officer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey and served as its first president from 1923 to 1938. In 1934, after banning many Islamic customs and Westernizing the country, Atatürk and the Turkish government secularized the former cathedral and mosque and converted it into a museum.

The 10 Best Air Fryers on Amazon

Cosori/Amazon
Cosori/Amazon

When it comes to making food that’s delicious, quick, and easy, you can’t go wrong with an air fryer. They require only a fraction of the oil that traditional fryers do, so you get that same delicious, crispy texture of the fried foods you love while avoiding the extra calories and fat you don’t.

But with so many air fryers out there, it can be tough to choose the one that’ll work best for you. To make your life easier—and get you closer to that tasty piece of fried chicken—we’ve put together a list of some of Amazon’s top-rated air frying gadgets. Each of the products below has at least a 4.5-star rating and over 1200 user reviews, so you can stop dreaming about the perfect dinner and start eating it instead.

1. Ultrean Air Fryer; $76

Ultrean/Amazon

Around 84 percent of reviewers awarded the Ultrean Air Fryer five stars on Amazon, making it one of the most popular models on the site. This 4.2-quart oven doesn't just fry, either—it also grills, roasts, and bakes via its innovative rapid air technology heating system. It's available in four different colors (red, light blue, black, and white), making it the perfect accent piece for any kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cosori Air Fryer; $120

Cosori/Amazon

This highly celebrated air fryer from Cosori will quickly become your favorite sous chef. With 11 one-touch presets for frying favorites, like bacon, veggies, and fries, you can take the guesswork out of cooking and let the Cosori do the work instead. One reviewer who “absolutely hates cooking” said, after using it, “I'm actually excited to cook for the first time ever.” You’ll feel the same way!

Buy it: Amazon

3. Innsky Air Fryer; $90

Innsky/Amazon

With its streamlined design and the ability to cook with little to no oil, the Innsky air fryer will make you feel like the picture of elegance as you chow down on a piece of fried shrimp. You can set a timer on the fryer so it starts cooking when you want it to, and it automatically shuts off when the cooking time is done (a great safety feature for chefs who get easily distracted).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Secura Air Fryer; $62

Secura/Amazon

This air fryer from Secura uses a combination of heating techniques—hot air and high-speed air circulation—for fast and easy food prep. And, as one reviewer remarked, with an extra-large 4.2-quart basket “[it’s] good for feeding a crowd, which makes it a great option for large families.” This fryer even comes with a toaster rack and skewers, making it a great addition to a neighborhood barbecue or family glamping trip.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Chefman Turbo Fry; $60

Chefman/Amazon

For those of you really looking to cut back, the Chefman Turbo Fry uses 98 percent less oil than traditional fryers, according to the manufacturer. And with its two-in-one tank basket that allows you to cook multiple items at the same time, you can finally stop using so many pots and pans when you’re making dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Ninja Air Fryer; $100

Ninja/Amazon

The Ninja Air Fryer is a multipurpose gadget that allows you to do far more than crisp up your favorite foods. This air fryer’s one-touch control panel lets you air fry, roast, reheat, or even dehydrate meats, fruits, and veggies, whether your ingredients are fresh or frozen. And the simple interface means that you're only a couple buttons away from a homemade dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant Pot Air Fryer + Electronic Pressure Cooker; $180

Instant Pot/Amazon

Enjoy all the perks of an Instant Pot—the ability to serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and more—with a lid that turns the whole thing into an air fryer as well. The multi-level fryer basket has a broiling tray to ensure even crisping throughout, and it’s big enough to cook a meal for up to eight. If you’re more into a traditional air fryer, check out Instant Pot’s new Instant Vortex Pro ($140) air fryer, which gives you the ability to bake, proof, toast, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Omorc Habor Air Fryer; $100

Omorc Habor/Amazon

With a 5.8-quart capacity, this air fryer from Omorc Habor is larger than most, giving you the flexibility of cooking dinner for two or a spread for a party. To give you a clearer picture of the size, its square fryer basket, built to maximize cooking capacity, can handle a five-pound chicken (or all the fries you could possibly eat). Plus, with a non-stick coating and dishwasher-safe basket and frying pot, this handy appliance practically cleans itself.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dash Deluxe Air Fryer; $100

Dash/Amazon

Dash’s air fryer might look retro, but its high-tech cooking ability is anything but. Its generously sized frying basket can fry up to two pounds of French fries or two dozen wings, and its cool touch handle makes it easy (and safe) to use. And if you're still stumped on what to actually cook once you get your Dash fryer, you'll get a free recipe guide in the box filled with tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Bella Air Fryer; $52

Bella/Amazon

This petite air fryer from Bella may be on the smaller side, but it still packs a powerful punch. Its 2.6-quart frying basket makes it an ideal choice for couples or smaller families—all you have to do is set the temperature and timer, and throw your food inside. Once the meal is ready, its indicator light will ding to let you know that it’s time to eat.

Buy it: Amazon

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Notre-Dame Cathedral’s New Spire Will Be an Exact Replica of the Old One

This wasn't actually the original spire.
This wasn't actually the original spire.
Michael McCarthy, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Just days after a fire ravaged Notre-Dame de Paris on April 15, 2019, France’s then-prime minister Édouard Philippe announced plans for an international competition to design a new, more modern spire “suited to the techniques and challenges of our time.”

Though not everyone supported the initiative, architects from all over the world made quick work of sharing their innovative ideas. Some imagined spires made from unconventional materials—Brazilian architect Alexandre Fantozzi favored stained glass, for example, and France’s Mathieu Lehanneur designed a flame-shaped spire covered in gold leaf—while others envisioned using the space for something completely different. Sweden’s Ulf Mejergren Architects suggested a rooftop swimming pool, and Studio NAB proposed a greenhouse.

But those architects will have to bring their inventive designs to life elsewhere. As artnet News reports, the French Senate recently passed legislation mandating that the cathedral be restored to its “last known visual state.” President Emmanuel Macron released a statement endorsing the decision and explaining that city officials would look to add a “contemporary gesture” in the “redevelopment of the surroundings of the cathedral” instead.

Though the 800-ton, 305-foot-tall spire was certainly one of Notre-Dame’s most striking features, it wasn’t actually part of the original building. The first spire, constructed between 1220 and 1230, began to deteriorate after several centuries, and it was removed in the late 1700s. The cathedral went spire-less until 1859, when builders completed work on architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s new design—which, according to Popular Mechanics, wasn’t an exact replica of the original.

A 17th-century etching of Notre-Dame with its original spire.I. Silvestre, Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

This event could have set the precedent for updating the spire this time, but it’s possible that government officials were motivated by more than a simple commitment to architectural consistency. Last year, Macron had promised that the restoration would be completed by 2024, when Paris is scheduled to host the Summer Olympics. It’s an ambitious goal, and a worldwide competition to come up with a new design could have delayed the process more than reconstructing the spire as it once was.

[h/t artnet News]