Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Tympanum Mosaics

Era 9AD
Location Istanbul, Turkey

Like Mary and Christ, these mosaics of the Church Fathers in the tympana below the central dome also reflected the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Although there were originally fourteen images of selected Church Fathers, seven on each side, only four have been uncovered, all in the north tympanum. These are Ignatios the Younger (Iconophile Patriarch of Constantinople), Ignatios Theophoros, John Chrysostom and Athanasios. Above the Fathers were four major prophets, Isaiah and probably Daniel in the south tympanum; Ezekiel and Jeremiah in the north. Twelve minor prophets on a smaller scale, including Habakkuk and Jonah, were placed between the windows. Four monograms were placed in four medallions below the four major prophets: the one that would have contained the emperor’s name has, of course, gone. All the Fathers are eastern bishops and eight were figures associated with the liturgy of Hagia Sophia, so they were clearly selected as relevant to the building. Ignatios the Younger and Methodios were both figures who had been sanctified for their opposition to Iconoclasm. Ignatios died in 877, so the mosaics must post-date this, and this date together with the emphasis on the Triumph of Orthodoxy implies that the tympana mosaics were the work of the emperor Basil again, perhaps with the support of the Patriarch Photios (who had recognised Ignatios as a saint between 877 and 886) and date to the 880s to 890s. A major earthquake in 869 had severely damaged the church and Basil had been responsible for the repairs, including a mosaic of the the Mother of God and her Child, Peter and Paul on the western arch. Conceivably, these tympana mosaics formed a part of the same repairs.

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