December 14: shaking up Constantinople

2012/12/14 § Leave a comment

hagia sophia

On this day in 557 a strong earthquake shook Constantinople.

Earthquakes were nothing new in the Byzantine capital, which was habitually shaken, most recently by two earthquakes just in the preceding months.  The big one in 557 toppled all kinds of buildings and rent the fortification walls (not awesome when Huns are lurking around), as well as knocking the stuffing out of Hagia Sophia.  The church had stood just two decades when the disaster struck.  It was particularly hard on the exceptionally risky structure raised under the direction of Justinian.  Its fragile masonry dome, hovering 184 feet above the unprecedentedly broad space of the nave, finally collapsed during following May.  Rebuilt during the following five years, the dome took on a taller profile and was stiffened with ribs that has withstood other fearsome quakes in 859 and 989.  You just know that somewhere Norman Foster has a plan for a glass and steel donut to stick up there if it falls down again.

Image: weird image of Sophia’s insides (from this source)


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