Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor of Rome (A.D. 306-337), founded Constantinople, as a new capital of the Empire, on the site of the Greek city of Byzantium. This historical event was, later, in a great measure, responsible for (1) the division of European architecture into Romanesque and Byzantine, (2) the formation of two Churches, the Roman and Greek, and (3) the division of the Empire into the Western and Eastern Empires.
Byzantine architecture maybe said to be Roman architecture (1) influenced by Asiatic feeling, (2) stimulated by the new faith of Christianity, and (3) modified by Greek thought which still prevailed, when Byzantine architecture was taking shape, in the Eastern Empire.
Buildings in this style are characterized by, the round arch, the circle, and, above all, by the use of the dome. The chief glory, internally, of typical churches in this style is the wonderful display of precious marbles and mosaics.
The floors are inlaid with marble mosaics, the lower parts of the walls are covered with coloured marbles : the vaults, domes, and walls are devoted to pictures wrought in luminous glass mosaics.
The general wreck of the Eastern or Byzantine Empire was brought about by a new religion, Mohammedanism, but it was not till 14.53 that Constantinople was in the hands of a Mohammedan power.
Mohammedan mosques are invariably built in the Byzantine style, the chief features of Saracenic architecture being the dome, the minaret, and the horseshoe arch.
Saracenic architecture as developed in Spain is generally known as Moorish architecture. The most famous example of this style is the Alhambra.
STA. SOPHIA, CONSTANTINOPLE
Constantine the Great erected a Christian church on this site. It was burnt down, a second suffered the same fate. In A.D. 532 the Emperor Justinian laid the foundation of a new style of Architecture—Byzantine. In Byzantine Art the architecture of the round arch and the dome rose to its fullest beauty. Sta. Sophia was converted into a Mohammedan mosque in 1453. The Turks are responsible for the minarets and various adjuncts in the foreground.
Section of Sta. Sophia
The opening left in the centre of the dome by Roman builders for admission of light also let in rain. Byzantine architects placed windows in the curve of the dome and later introduced the drum, grouping the windows round the dwarf tower and placing a dome over it.