St. Sophia Cathedrals 

In this review you can read about several St. Sophia Cathedrals. This was usually the name of the main cathedrals of the country or principality. Sometimes the construction of the Hagia Sophia emphasized the continuity of traditions:

1. St. Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul – 532
2. St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev - 1017
3. St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod - 1045
4. St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda - 1568
5. St. Sophia Cathedral in Tobolsk - 1683

St. Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul

The St. Sophia Cathedral of the Wisdom of God in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, is the most majestic of the architectural masterpieces of the early Middle Ages that have survived to this day. In 1453, immediately after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, St. Sophia Cathedral was turned into a mosque, but it retained its name - the Hagia Sophia Mosque.

Most of the oldest cathedrals in Europe date back to the 12th-13th century, and the huge St. Sophia Cathedral with a dome without a support was built in the 6th century. The Hagia Sophia was built in just 5 years in the period 532-537, by Emperor Justinian. 

For more than 1100 years, St. Sophia Cathedral (Hagia Sophia in Greek) remained the largest temple in the world. It was only in the 16th century that Italian Renaissance sculptors were able to surpass the Byzantine architects Anthimos and Isidore by building the Church of St. Peter in Rome.

For more than a millennium, Hagia Sophia remained a model for domed churches. And for the St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople, the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem was a model of scale and grandeur. According to legend, when the temple was consecrated, Emperor Justinian exclaimed: "I have surpassed you, Solomon."

There are 40 windows in cascading semi-domes under the dome, and the diameter of the main dome reaches 31 meters, which was an absolute architectural achievement for those times. The main nave is surrounded by galleries that support 107 columns of malachite and Egyptian parthyry.

After the St. Sophia Cathedral became the Hagia Sophia Mosque, all the images of people were covered with plaster and a minaret appeared nearby. Later, another minaret was added, and then two more. This explains why all the minarets of Hagia Sophia are different.

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St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev

St. Sophia Cathedral is the most ancient temple of Kievan Rus. It was laid during the reign of Prince Yaroslav the Wise on the site of the victory over the Polovtsy. The Cathedral has been the center of religious and political life for centuries. Kievan Veche (the prototype of the parliament) took place here, Kievan princes took possession. 

The dates of the cathedral's construction are debated, but historians agree that it was built between 1017 and 1037. There were no masters for the construction of a cathedral of this size in Kievan Rus, so it was built by Byzantine masters. Yaroslav named the cathedral in honor of St. Sophia, as well as the main church of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia, to emphasize the continuity of Orthodoxy. 

In its original form, the cathedral was a five-relief cross-domed church surrounded on four sides by galleries. St. Sophia Cathedral has a main dome, and 12 more domes cascade down around it. The St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople has the same structure of domes, but the Kiev temple does not look like it in its architecture. 

In the 17th century, St. Sophia Cathedral was reconstructed in the Ukrainian Baroque style. 6 more domes were added, but the changes only affected the appearance. The interior has been completely preserved in its original form since the 11th century and is of exceptional cultural value on a global scale.

The frescoes and mosaics of Byzantine masters of the 11th century have been completely preserved in the Hagia Sophia. The central and eastern part of the cathedral is decorated with Byzantine mosaics, and the rest of the cathedral's surfaces are painted with frescoes. The main mosaic of St. Sophia Cathedral in the altar part is Our Lady of Oranta (height 5.45 m). No less impressive is the mosaic of Christos Pantokrator in the main dome (diameter 4 m).

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St. Sophia Cathedral in Veliky Novgorod

St. Sophia Cathedral in Veliky Novgorod is the oldest stone temple in Russia. It was laid in 1045 by Prince Yaroslav the Wise on the model of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. The temples of northern Russia differ from those that were built in the southern lands. 

The northern temples are squat, have powerful walls and narrow windows. This is due to the harsh northern climate. However, despite this, ancient architects created the monumental St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod, 38 meters high. The thickness of the walls reaches 1.2 meters. The width of the cathedral together with the galleries is 39 meters. 

The facade of St. Sophia Cathedral is decorated with bronze gates of German masters, which were installed here in 1187. They were called the Magdeburg Gates. Inside the St. Sophia Cathedral in the 12th century was completely painted, but only part of the frescoes have survived to this day. The five-tiered iconostasis, with more than 70 icons, is called one of the oldest and most beautiful in Russia.

The main shrines kept in St. Sophia Cathedral are the Icon of the Sign of the Holy Virgin, one of the most revered icons in Russia, the Ostromislovo Gospel, the oldest handwritten books preserved in Russia, the Alexievsky Cross of the 14th century. Also next to the altar you can see the original cross from the dome of St. Sophia Cathedral, along with a dove depicting the Holy Spirit.

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St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda

St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda was founded in 1568. Three years earlier, Tsar Ivan the Terrible declared Vologda the capital of his Oprichnina state. The importance of Vologda at this time grew significantly, and the tsar decided to build a cathedral here on the model of the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, the main temple of Russia.

In 1612, the cathedral was consecrated in honor of Sophia the Wisdom of God. Vologda has long been under the rule of the Novgorod Principality, so the consecration of the main throne of the Vologda church in honor of St. Sophia demonstrated the independence of Vologda from Veliky Novgorod. 

St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda has a cross-domed shape without decorative frills, classic for Russian churches. Despite the considerable size of St. Sophia Cathedral, its proportions and appearance look very harmonious. The height of the cathedral reaches 59 meters, the length of the walls is 38 meters. 

St. Sophia Cathedral was painted by an artel of Yaroslavl masters led by Dmitry Plekhanov in the 17th century. The total area of the fresco painting of St. Sophia Cathedral in Vologda was 5 thousand square meters. 

On the western side of the cathedral there is a Fresco of the Last Judgment, the area of which is 400 square meters. It is the largest fresco composition in the church in Russia. On the right side of the fresco of the Last Judgment, the image of five European nobles in doublets and with swords catches the eye. This is a completely unique image for the church canons of Old Russian fresco painting in temples.

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St. Sophia Cathedral in Tobolsk

St. Sophia Cathedral in Tobolsk is the oldest white-stone building in Siberia, built in the period 1683-86 by an artel of masons from Moscow and Veliky Ustyug.

The decision to build it was made under Metropolitan Paul I, who before his appointment to Tobolsk was the archimandrite of the Chudov Monastery in the Moscow Kremlin. He instructed the masons to be guided by the drawings of the Cathedral of the Ascension Convent in the Moscow Kremlin.

The height of St. Sophia Cathedral is 47 meters, and the thickness of the walls reaches 2 meters. By June 1684, the cathedral was almost built, but the supporting pillars could not stand, and the vault collapsed on the night of June 27. A year later, construction resumed, and in October 1686, the consecration of the stone cathedral in honor of the Assumption of the Mother of God took place, however, the former name of St. Sophia Cathedral also remained behind it. For almost three hundred years it was the cathedral of the bishops and metropolitans of Tobolsk and All Siberia and their tomb. 

The St. Sophia Cathedral of Tobolsk looks very big inside. The vaults are supported by massive pillars that were made thicker than usual after the collapse. In 1710, by decree of Peter I, a thousand rubles were issued from the treasury for the construction of a new carved iconostasis, called "marvelous" for its splendor.

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