Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, mosaic of the Emperor Alexander

Era 10AD
Location Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

This is the one panel that visitors to Hagia Sophia often fail to find. It’s tucked away upstairs in the north gallery of the church on the eastern face of the north-western pier between the two northern piers of the north gallery. Alexander, shown as a man of mature years, stands alone in this tight space. Fully frontal, in his full imperial regalia, holding the sceptre and akakion, he stares out at the viewer. It is unusual for such a figure to be shown alone, but the space is too narrow to anyone else in. Four inscribed discs, two on each side, give his name, Alexander, and title ( ), and a prayer: ‘Lord, help your servant, the orthodox and faithful emperor’. This inscription means that the panel almost certainly dates to 912-13, the period of Alexander’s sole rule.


The panel is 3.1 m high and 1.5 m wide, whilst the emperor is 2.37m tall. Alexander was not highly regarded by the Byzantines as an emperor.

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