Imperial Door, Hagia Sophia

Last Updated on April 25, 2019

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Imperial Door, Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), Istanbul, Turkey

Gateway to Heaven

The Imperial Door in Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia(Ayasofya) was the portal into the great church’s vast main space covered by its soaring dome, the architectural marvel of its age.

As visitors—even the Byzantine emperor himself—peered upward, a glorious mosaic of Christ as Ruler of All(Pantocrator) peered down beneficently upon them from above the Imperial Door.

During your tour of Istanbul, hesitate here for a moment and imagine the elaborate gilded processions that passed through this huge portal in Byzantine times.

…Of the moment in 537 when Justinian the Great stood here, gazed at his creation and exclaimed, “Oh Solomon! I have outdone thee!”

…Of the moment in May of 1453 when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror came to this door, fresh from his conquest of the city, rubbed ashes on his head in humility, and ordered that the great church be cleansed, renewed, and dedicated as a mosque.

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