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ST. SOPHIA: THE CHURCH.
(With an Engraving.) The spacious hippodrome--the racing-ground-of ancient Constantinople, part of which appears in the fore-ground of our picture, no longer remains in its original extent, to show the site of conflicts between adverse factions, as well as bands of racers ; neither does the mosque of St. Sophia represent the grandeur of the former church, as it rose to the admiration of the Greeks. We therefore now speak of the original fabric, the church, and defer to our next Number a description of its actual condition, as the mosque.
Various writers, contemporary with the building at several stages of its history before it fell into possession of the Turks, have described it from observation ; but we borrow the half-true and half-legendary account of an anonymous writer, preserved among the Byzantine histories, * in preference to the others, because it reveals the superstition of the Greeks, as well as the chief outlines of architectural description. The reader will easily distinguish between the reality and the superstition of the tale.
A church was built at first on the same spot by Constantine the Great, in an oblong form, and adorned by that half-pagan Monarch with a multitude of statues.
* Imperium Orientale, sive Antiquitates Constantinopolitanæ," &c. Anselmi Banduri. Pars. iii., lib. iv.
VOL. XIX. Second Series.
There was much wood in the building; and in the time of Theodosius, during the holding of the second synod of Constantinople, the Arians thought to advance their cause by burning it down. They raised a riot, set fire to the church, and the Patriarch Nectarius had to assemble his brethren in the church of St. Irene, another edifice of Constantine. After being without a roof for two years, it was arched over by one Master Rufinus, and so continued until the fifth year of the Emperor Justinian; when, after a dreadful battle between two factions in the hippodrome, wherein thirty-five thousand men perished, that Sovereign resolved “to build a temple, such as had not been reared from the time of Adam."
He therefore wrote to his Generals, Satraps, Judges, and Collectors of provinces, commanding them all and each to make diligent search for pillars, hewn stones, peristyles, boards, gates, and whatever materials would be useful for building temples. Then they to whom the service was confided, collected all they could from idol-temples, ancient baths, and palaces, from every province, and from all the islands of north, south, east, and west, and sent it to the Emperor Justinian. Among others, one Marcia, a Roman widow, sent on rafts eight pillars which she had received in her dowry. Those pillars had formed part of the Temple of the Sun, built by the Emperor Aurelian in Rome, before he surrendered himself to the Persians. They were altogether wonderful, of green marble, cut and polished, and were brought from Rome by Constantine, Prætor of Ephesus, together with these words, written to the Emperor : “ I send thee for the salvation of my soul these pillars, equal in length, weight, and breadth.” So early had people come to substitute donations for faith in Christ. Other pillars were brought from Cyzicum, from Troas, and from the Cyclades. And materials of all kinds came pouring into Constantinople for seven years and a half.
In the twelfth year of his reign Justinian demolished the temple built by Constantine, and having no use for its materials, on account of the great store accumulated, laid them aside. And to obtain the necessary space, he set about buying the neighbouring houses; and first began to negotiate for the purchase of one belonging to a certain widow, named Anna, offering a handsome price. But the widow refused to sell her house at any price, and resisted the entreaties of the great men of the city, sent to expostulate with her on her obstinacy. “ At last the Emperor himself went to her, and supplicated the woman to take a price. Then, when she saw the Emperor, she fell at his feet, and, herself in the attitude of a suppliant, said, 'I will take no price for the house from thee. I only ask that I too may have a reward in the day of judgment, out of the temple thou art going to build, and may be buried by my own dwelling.'” He therefore promised her a place of burial within the temple, so that she might have perpetual possession of her own estate.
The Holy Well, too, as they called it, and the whole space occupied by the altar and the ambo (reader's desk, or pulpit), belonged to the house of Antiochus, a eunuch, and was valued at thirty-eight pounds (tirpai). But as Antiochus wanted to drive a bargain for his house, and as the Emperor was not willing to be imposed upon, nor yet to do violence to the man, Master Strategius, Prefect of the imperial treasury, and spiritual brother of the Emperor, promised to get possession of it by some contrivance. Now the Circensian games were near; and knowing that the said Antiochus was fond of those games, Strategius threw him into prison. When the day for the games came, Antiochus, with a mournful voice, implored that he might be suffered to behold the games, and promised that, if let out of prison to see them, he would do anything the Emperor desired. Forthwith he was led into the hippodrome, where the Emperor sat ready for the chariots to start, and there sold him his house, the Questor and the whole Senate subscribing their names as witnesses.
Another part of the site required belonged to a person who sold his property with a good grace; but there was yet another belonging to one Xenophon, a tailor, and a wretched little house it was. But this proprietor not only asked twice its value, but solicited that on the day of the Circensian