A History of Romanesque Architecture

300 AD -1300 AD

Early Roman and Byzantine Churches

300-600 AD

Google Map 1

Armenia, Echmiadzin Cathedral
304, 484, 618, 1685

Photo by Karen_T, Panoramio 

Echmiadzin Cathedral has basically a cruciform floor plan - not copied from the Aghia Sophia in Constantinople, which was built 250 years later! Strictly speaking this is not a "Romanesque" church, the reason why it is rarely refered to in treatises on Romanesque architecture. However its earliest version is one of the first surviving Christian churches - and Armenian masterbuilders subsequently constructed buildings for many patrons elsewhere, from Georgia and Antiochia, to the mosques of Isfahan in the 17th cent!

Italy, Rome, Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius

Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum, photo Britannia.com

Construction began on the northern side of the forum under the emperor Maxentius in 308, and was completed in 312 by Constantine I after he defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

The south and central sections were probably destroyed by the earthquake of 847. All that remains of the basilica is the north aisle with its three concrete barrel vaults.The ceilings of the barrel vaults show advanced weight-saving structural skill with octagonal ceiling coffers.

Germany, Trier, Constantine's “Aula Palatina” or “Constantinus Basilica"


Interior, Photo by Talavan, Panoramio 

The Constantinian "Aula Palatina Basilica" (310) in Trier was the Aula (reception hall) of Roman Emperor Constantin I's palace. It was not used as a church during Constantine's time, but it is one of the earliest surviving examples of a basilica with an apse differing from the Syrian churches and Agh. Eirene in Constantinople.

Italy, Rome, Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano
313 - 17th cent.

Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano — is the oldest cathedral in Rome and ranks first among the four major basilicas of Rome. The site was occupied during the early Roman Empire by the palace of the gens Laterani. In time to host a synod of bishops in 313, which was convened to challenge the Donatist schism, Constantine I's palace basilica was converted it into a church. Eventually it became the Cathedral of Rome, the seat of the popes as bishops of Rome. It was enlarged and altered repeatedly so that nothing remains of the original church. In the 16th cent Pope Sixtus V tore down the original Lateran Palace and Basilica and commissioned replacements.

San Giovani in Fonte, Battisterio 315

The problem with the churches of Rome is that almost nothing remains of the earliest church architecture except in ruins. San Giovanni has been completely rebuilt in the !7th century, but the Constantinian Battisterio still stands.

First built by Constantine I in 315, the structure is one of the oldest Christian buildings in Rome and the oldest baptistery in Christendom. It provided the model for later versions, including the Byzantine baptisteries at Ravenna. Churches did not contain their own baptisteries at this time, and San Giovanni in Fonte was the only place to be baptized in Rome until the late 300s. At that time, baptisms were held only at Easter.

In the 5th century, Constantine's original baptistery was internally remodelled (roof structure) by Pope Sixtus III (432-40) in a similar style as the Mausoleum of Santa Costanza, including the addition of a narthex. A few decades later, Pope Hilarius (461-68) added side chapels dedicated to the two St. Johns.

Greece, Paroikia, Paros, Panaghia Ekatontapyliani

Baptisterium, 326

The Panaghia Ekatontapyliani (Mother of God of the Hundred Doors) on the island of Paros is the oldest Byzantine church in Greece! It is 211 years older than the Hagia Sofia. Extensiv archeological work during the past 20 years has revealed that a first church, dedicated to St. Nikolas was built in 326 AD during the time of Emperor Justinian with and inside the ruins of an Artemis temple - Of this first church the baptistery and the nave and apse with a bishop's throne are extant (separate buildings).

Main nave of the present church, photos RWFG

Legend has it that the Byzantine Empress, Saint Helena (6th century AD) brought one of the architects of the Aghia Sofia to Paros to erect the present cathedral filling the space between the two older buildings. Its grand-style architecture seems to confirm this story. Like in the Aghia Sophia the 6th century addition is heavily indebted to architectural pieces taken from 26 different classical temples - about which little seems to be known.

Italy, Rome, Basilica di San Clemente
4th cent, 1100

Interior of the upper-most, 11th cent church with well-preserved 12th cent. mosaics in the apse.
by mppp, Panoramio

San Clemente is based on a three tiered archeological site with the upper most level being a 11th century church dedicated to Pope Clement I (died 99 AD) and a Roman Mithras temple of the 2nd cent at the lowest.

San Clemente, restored Lower Church, 4th-9th century

On the second level are the remnants of the church's 4th century predecessor. Originally, the 4th-century church consisted of a nave and two timber-roofed aisles with an apse at the west end and a narthex at the entrance, fronted by an atrium surrounded by arcaded porticoes.

On the lowest level a Roman Mithras temple of the 2nd cent. AD has been excavated. The ensemble is one of the most interesting and beautiful sites in Rome.

Palestine, Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Entrance to the church
Photo Geraldo Antonio Salo, Panoramio 

In 325-326 Emperor Constantine I ordered the site of the Holy Sepulcher to be recovered, and instructed Saint Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, to build a church on the site.

Italy, Rome, Santa Maria in Trastevere
340-18th cent.

The apse mosaic of Santa Maria in Trastevere, 1291
Photo by mppp, Panoramio 

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome, perhaps the first in which mass was openly celebrated. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s. A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope St. Callixtus I (217-222) whose remains are preserved under the altar. It underwent two restorations in the fifth and eighth centuries. In 1140-1143 the church was re-erected on its old foundations under Innocent II. Inside the church are a number of late 13th-century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini on the subject of the Life of the Virgin (1291). Reworked many times, the façade of the church was restored by Carlo Fontana in 1702.

Egypt, Monastery of St. Anthony

Photo by martin.ullreich, Panoramio

The Monastery of Saint Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monastery standing in an oasis in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. Hidden deep in the Red Sea mountains, it is located 334 km southeast of Cairo. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the world, and was established by the followers of Saint Anthony, who is considered to be the first ascetic monk.

The monastery of Saint Anthony was built around 356 on the burial site of Saint Anthony. Little is known about the monastery's early period. During the sixth and seventh centuries, many monks from the monastery's Sketes took refuge in the monastery, in order to escape the frequent attacks by the Bedouins and Berbers. At this place Christian monasticism originated in the 4th cent.

Strictly speaking this is stylistically not "Romanesque" architecture. Here Eastern and Western influences come together. However the cultural impact of this venerable monastery warrants its inclusion here.

Greece, Thessalonika, The Rotonda of St. George
306, 360

Photo Wikipedia

The Rotonda was built 306 by the Roman tetrarch Galerius, perhaps as a tomb. It was converted by Emperor Constantine I into a church in the 360s. It is now a museum with remnants of badly deteriorated mosaics.

Italy, Rome, First Basilica of St. Peter

Old St. Peter's around 1483, certainly before 1506 when it was torn down and
the present building was begun by Leone Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellini.

At least since the second century, the spot was thought to be the location of the tomb of St. Peter, where there stood a small shrine. Construction was begun on the orders of the Roman emperor Constantine I between 326 and 333, and took about 30 years to complete. The design was a typical basilica.

Turkey Constantinople-Istanbul. Aghia Eirene
before 360, 548

Aghia Irene, Present building, 548, photo  fisher40, Panoramio 

The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman Emperor Constantine I commissioned the first Hagia Irene church in the 4th century. From May to July 381 the First Council of Constantinople took place in the church. It was burned down during the Nika revolt in 532. Emperor Justinian I had the church restored in 548. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Megali Ecclesia, the first predecessor of the Hagia Sophia, was completed in 360. During Ottoman times it was a powder magazine, later a museum of armaments. It presently serves as a concert hall.

Turkey, Constantinople-Istanbul. Megali Ekklesia

Megali Ekklesia (Great Church), the first predecessor of the Aghia Sophia, was inaugurated 360 during the reign of Constantius II by the Arian bishop Eudoxius of Antioch. In 404 the Patriarch of Constantinople John Chrysostomon came into a conflict with Empress Aelia Eudoxia, wife of the emperor Arcadius, and was sent into exile. During the subsequent Nika riots, the church was burned down. Nothing remains of this church today, Justinian I covered the site with his imperial Aghia Sophia in 532.

Italy, Florence, Basilica di San Lorenzo
consecrated 393

Today's unfinished church built 1425 by Brunelleschi

The Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the largest churches of Florence, situated at the centre of the city’s main market district, and the burial place of all the principal members of the Medici family from Cosimo il Vecchio to Cosimo III. It is one of several churches that claim to be the oldest in Florence; when it was consecrated in 393 it stood outside the city walls. In the 11th century it was enlarged into a Romanesque structure. For three hundred years it was the city's cathedral before the official seat of the bishop was transferred to Santa Reparata.

San Lorenzo has a complicated building history. In 1419, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici offered to finance a new church to replace the 11th-century Romanesque rebuilding. Filippo Brunelleschi, the leading Renaissance architect of the first half of the 15th century, was commissioned to design it, but the building, with alterations, was never completed after his death. The façade was never built. The church is part of a larger monastic complex that contains other important architectural works.

Syria, Dead Cities, Mushabbak Basilica
4th century

Mushabbak Basilica

Mushabbak Basilica is located among the Dead Cities or Forgotten Cities, a group of 700 abandoned settlements in northwest Syria between Aleppo and Afin. Around 40 villages grouped in eight archaeological parks situated in north-western Syria provide an insight into rural life in Late Antiquity and during the Byzantine period. Most villages which date from the 1st to 7th centuries, became abandoned between the 8th and 10th centuries. The settlements feature the well-preserved architectural remains of dwellings, pagan temples, churches, cisterns, bathhouses etc. Two of the important churches in the area are shown below.
Photo and text from Wikipedia

Syria, Dead Cities, Church of Kharrab Shams

Kharrab Shams,
Photo by Raki_Man, Panoramio

Kharrab Shams Basilica, one of the oldest and best-preserved Christian structures in the Levant dates to the fourth century AD. The Byzantine church is located 21 km (13 mi) northwest of Aleppo.

Syria, Dead Cities, Church of St Simeon Stylites

Main church of St, Simeon Stylites, Photo Washington University

The Church of St. Simeon Stylites is a historical building located about 30 km (19 mi) northwest of Aleppo, Syria. It is one of the oldest surviving Byzantine churchs, dating back to the 5th century. Built on the site of the pillar of St. Simeon Stylites, a famed hermit monk, the church is popularly known as either Qalaat Semaan (Arabic: ‏Qalʿat Simʿān), the 'Fortress of Simeon', or Deir Semaan (Arabic: Dayr Simʿān), the 'Monastery of Simeon'

St. Simeon was born in 386 AD in a village in the Amanus Mountains. He joined a monastery in this area, but soon decided to seek a religious life alone as a hermit monk. After living in a cave for a while, he relocated to the top of a pillar eventually reaching 15 meters (49 ft) high to achieve greater seclusion. He soon attracted even greater crowds, who came from far and near to hear him preach twice a day.

Within just a few decades (c.475), a vast martyrium was built in Simeon's honor on this site. It consisted of four basilicas radiating from the sides of a central octagon, within which was enshrined the famous column.

Syria, Damascus, Church of St. John Baptist
4th cent –705,
rebuilt as: Great Umayyad Mosque 706 - 715

Present Prayer Hall of the Great Umayyad Mosque
from the courtyard
Photo kaizergallery.com

Originally the site was an Aramaean temple to the god Hadad (~1000 BC). The Romans (65 AD) changed it into a temple of Jupiter, which was in the 4th cent. converted into a Christian cathedral dedicated to John the Baptist.

The Muslim conquest of Damascus in 636 did not affect the church, as the building was shared by Muslim and Christian worshippers. The Umayyad caliph Al-Walid I purchased the site and demolished the church. He built the present mosque between 706 and 715 with the help of 200 skilled Byzantine workers: e.g., the mosaics in the overlong (136 x 37 m) prayer hall. Most of this interior decoration was lost in a great fire in 1893. The mosaics on the outside are of recent date. The mosque contains a shrine to St. John (Yaya)

Interior, Shrine to St. John, photo Wikipedia

Italy, Milano, Sant'Ambrogio
386, rebuilt 1080

The Sant' Ambrosio complex, 1080

The Basilica of St. Ambrose was begun by Bishop Ambrose around 385 and consecrated in 386. The church was built on a grand scale over an existing cemetery, next to the martyrium of St. Victor. Two local martyrs provided the relics for the altar, and Ambrose was buried next to them after his death on April 4, 397.

The original basilica has been excavated beneath the existing building. Surviving foundations indicate it had two side aisles, a marble floor, a semicircular apse, and a four-columned baldacchino over the high altar. The west façade has not been located so the exact length of the nave is unknown, but it had at least 13 bays.

The basilica was rebuilt in the Romanesque style in the 11th century and this is the building that survives today. Historical records are lacking when it comes to an exact date, but scholars believe it was probably begun around 1080 based on the history of architecture and engineering in Lombardy
From Sacred Destinations 

Italy, Rome, Santa Sabina

Basilica of Santa Sabina

The Church of Santa Sabina was founded around 425 by the presbyter Peter of Illyria, who recorded his name and good works in a mosaic inscription (which can still be seen). It was completed by about 432. Marking a development from the earlier basilica style seen at San Clemente, Santa Sabina “typifies in plan and proportion the new Roman standard basilica of the fifth century, representing a high point of Roman church building." (Krautheimer).

The original 5th century apse mosaic was replaced by a similar fresco by Taddeo Zuccari in 1559.

Turkey, Ephesos, Church of Mary Theotokos

The church is dated to the early 5th century, coinciding with the Third Ecumenical Council held in 431, suggesting that it may have been built specifically for the council, during which the title of Theotokos for the Mother of Christ was decided. The latest archaeological evidence suggests that the church was built on the ruins of an earlier Roman basilica abandoned around the 3rd century.
The church is now in ruins.

Floor plan of the cathedral (500-550)

Around 550, the church was expanded into a monumental cathedral, whose apse and pillars are partially still stand today.

Italy, Ravenna

Ravenna is the treasure trove of 5th to 6th century Roman-Byzantine mosaics. In subtlety and finesse they are only surpassed by the surviving mosaics in the Aghia Sofia in Istanbul. Well and abundantly documented, because of their beauty they still warrant a few pictures.
For a discussion of Ravenna see Wikipedia 

........Mausoleum of Galla Placidia 430 AD

Located in the backyard of San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna is known for its breathtaking mosaics. The small brick structure dates from around 430, making it one of the oldest monuments in Ravenna. Galla Placidia, a powerful Roman empress, was never buried here but likely commissioned the building.

Mosaics in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia The window panes are thin marble slices! Photo RWFG

Modern scholarly opinion is that the "Mausoleum of Galla Placidia" was built as an oratory rather than a mausoleum. It was originally connected to the narthex of the adjacent church of Santa Croce, which is known to have been built by Galla Placidia. So she probably commissioned the oratory, and it rightly takes her name, even if she was never buried there.

......Basilica of Christ the Redeemer -Apollinare Nuovo 504/561

The Three Magi photo wordpress

The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo was erected by the Ostrogoth King Theodoric as his palace chapel, during the first quarter of the 6th century. This Arian church was originally consecrated in 504 AD to Christ the Redeemer.

It was reconsecrated in 561, under the rule of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, under the new name "Sanctus Martinus in Coelo Aureo" ("Saint Martin in Golden Heaven"). Suppressing the Arian cult, the church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, a foe of Arianism. According to legend, Pope Gregory the Great ordered that the mosaics in the church be blackened, as their golden glory “distracted worshippers from their prayers.”

The basilica was renamed again in 856, when relics of Saint Apollinaris were transferred from the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe because of the threat posed by frequent raids of Adriatic pirates.

Its apse and atrium underwent reconstruction at various times, beginning in the 6th century with the destruction of mosaics whose themes were too overtly Arian or which expressed King Theodoric's glory, but the mosaics of the lateral walls, twenty-four columns with simplified Corinthian capitals, and an ambo are preserved. Among its splendid, but fomal mosaics are these lively Three Kings.

. .....Basilica of San Vitale 548 AD

The mosaics of San Vitale, photo Rigobello, Panoramio

The church, built by Emperor Justinian I has an octagonal plan. The building combines Roman elements: the dome, shape of doorways, and stepped towers; with Byzantine elements: its floor plan, polygonal apse, capitals, and narrow bricks. The church is most famous for its wealth of Byzantine mosaics, the largest and best preserved outside of Constantinople. The church is of major importance in Byzantine art, as it is the only church from the period of Emperor Justinian I to survive virtually intact to the present day.

. ......Sanct Appolinare in Classe 549

The nave of St. Apollinare in Classe, Photo vito buccellato, Panoramio 

Located a few kilometer south of Ravenna in the old harbor area, this imposing brick structure was erected at the beginning of 6th century by Bishop Ursicinus, using money from the Greek banker Iulianus Argentarius. It was located next to a Christian cemetery, and quite possibly on top of a pre-existing pagan one, as some of the ancient tombstones were re-used in its construction.

.......BBaptistry of the Arians around 560 AD

The dome of the Baptistry around 560, photo RWFG

The Arian Baptistry in Ravenna was erected by Ostrogoth King Theodoric the Great between the end of the fifth century and the beginning of the sixth, around the same time as the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo.

Theodoric was an Arian and decided to let the Goths (Arians) and the Latins ("orthodox" in the sense that they followed canon doctrine), live together but separately, and so there were separate neighborhoods and separate religious buildings

Greece, Thessalonika, Panagia Achiropietos
5th cent

Church of the Panagia Achiropietos photo minube.com

The church was built in the middle of the 5th century, on the remains of a Roman bath. It was dedicated to the “Holy Virgin not made by human hands" (Greek: Acheiropoietos)-the name most probably refering to the cult image. A few fragments of mosaics have survived of the interior decoration in the soffits of the arches of the colonnades, dated to the 5th century. Several parts of the wall paintings dated to the 13th century are also preserved in the south aisle.

France, Fréjus Cathedral, the Baptistry
5th cent

Fréjus Cathedral, Baptistry 5th cent, Church 11th and 13th cent
photo and text Wikipedia

Fréjus, founded by Julius Caesar, had been an important Roman town and capital of Provence. The existence of a Christian community is documented as early as 374, but it is not known where they worshipped. The foundation of the cathedral is traditionally attributed to Saint Leontius, bishop of Fréjus (ca. 419-ca. 488).

Thr baptistry is part of a complex of medieval religious buildings dating from between the 5th and 13th centuries, when Fréjus had become an important religious and commercial centre of Provence, comprising a parish church and a cathedral under one roof; a baptistery; the bishop's residence; a canonry for the community of priests who served under the bishop, and a cloisters.

The baptistery of the cathedral, built in the 5th century but hidden during later reconstruction, was rediscovered in 1925. It is considered the oldest Christian structure in Provence.

Italy, Florence, Church of Santa Felicitá
5th; 11th cent, 1736

Santa Felicitá,1736–1739
Text and photo Wikipedia 

The Chiesa di Santa Felicitá (Church of St Felicity) is probably the oldest church (after San Lorenzo) in Florence. It's history is as unique as it is unknown.

In the 2nd century, Syrian Greek merchants settled in the area south of the Arno. They are thought to have brought Christianity to the region. The first church on the site was probably built in the late 4th century or early 5th century and was dedicated to Saint Felicity of Rome. A new church was built in the 11th century and the current church largely dates from 1736–1739

France, Autun, Cathedral St. Nazaire-St. Lazare
5th cent

The Temptation of Eve, 12th cent, Photo Terres-romanes.lu

The first cathedral of Autun was built from the 5th century onwards (dedicated to St. Nazaire, as it held relics of Saints Nazarius and Celsus) and was later several times refurbished and enlarged. In about 970 it obtained from Marseille some of the relics of Lazarus of Aix, in the belief that they were relics of Lazarus of Bethany, the friend of Jesus. These became an object of pilgrimage and the crowds became too great for the cathedral building. The Bishop of Autun, Etienne de Bâgé, therefore decided in about 1120 on the construction of a new cathedral (St. Lazare) as a pilgrimage church and for the better veneration of the relics. The new cathedral was allotted a site to the north of the earlier cathedral of Saint Nazaire, of which some remains may still be seen.

The Autun Cathedral is a magnificent display of Romanesque Art and Architecture. The sculptures created by Gislebertus successfully integrate biblical iconography relating to the new and old testament with ease and amazing artistic ability. The size and quality of the tympanum of the Last Judgement, and the lintel of the Temptation of Eve are impressive and exquisitely detailed pieces of art.

Croatia, Istria, Porec, Euphrasian Cathedral
4th cent-553

The ciborium in the apse,

Porec (Croatia) is the Roman city of Parentium. The cathedral was built by Bishop Euphrasius 553 over the site of an older basilica that dated back to the 4th century.

The most striking feature of the basilica are its mosaics, dating from the 6th century, which are considered amongst the finest examples of Byzantine art. The vault over the apse is decorated with mosaics with Mary and Child, sitting on the Heavenly throne, under a wreath held by a hand - symbol of God the Father. This is the only surviving depiction of the Mother of God in an early-Christian western basilica. She is flanked by angels, Bishop Euphrasius, holding the model of the church; also local saints are depicted, including St. Maurus, the first bishop of Poreč and the Istrian diocese, and the archdeacon Claudius. The child between Euphrasius and Claudius is accompanied by the inscription "Euphrasius, son of the archdeacon". All figures stand on a meadow covered with flowers.
Text and photo Wikipedia

Egypt, St. Catherine Sinai Monastery

The monastery under Mt. Moses, photo katapi.org.uk 

The monastery was built by order of Emperor Justinian I between 527 and 565, enclosing the Chapel of the Burning Bush supposed to have been built by omnipresent St. Helena, the "mother, sister, and lover" (as the modern Greeks insist) of Emperor Constantine I - himself a Saint of Orthodoxy. For all possible historical explanations of the Greek epithet - and a simpler, apocryphal one - see St.Helena at Wikipedia

Turkey, Constatinople-Istanbul, SS. Sergius and Bacchus known as “Küçük Aya Sofya”

The Küçük Aya Sofya”, photo Archnet.org (taken before 1955)

Begun by Emperor Justinian in 527 it was dedicated to two martyred Roman soldiers and patrons of the Christian Roman army who appeared to Justinian I in a dream to convince him of his nephew’s innocence in a treason plot.

Its irregular outline may be explained by the possibility it was built as a pair and deformed to accommodate its twin, the Church of SS. Peter and Paul directly to its south although nothing now remains of it. Like the Haghia Sophia, which it may have been an architectural model for, very little remains of its original decoration, its mosaics having been plastered over. Converted into a mosque known as Kücük Aya Sofya Camii (little Aghia Sophia Mosque) in the 16th cent because of its resemblance to Haghia Sophia. It is still one of the finest preserved monuments in the city. A minaret was added in 1955!

Turkey, Constantinople-Istanbul, Haghia Sophia

The present church had two predecessors: The first church on the site was known as the Μεγάλη Ἐκκλησία (Megálē Ekklēsíā, "Great Church"), because it was larger than the contemporary churches in the City. Inaugurated 360 during the reign of Constantius II by the Arian bishop Eudoxius of Antioch. The Patriarch of Constantinople John Chrysostomon came into conflict with Empress Aelia Eudoxia, wife of Emperor Arcadius, and was sent into exile in 404. During the subsequent riots, this first church was largely burned down. Nothing remains of the first church today.

A second church was ordered by Theodosius II, who inaugurated it in 415. The basilica with a wooden roof was built by architect Rufinus. In 532 A fire started during the tumult of the Nika Revolt and burned the second church to the ground.

Church of Aghia Sophia, present day photo esmeralda

In 532, only a few weeks after the destruction of the second basilica, Emperor Justinian I decided to build a third entirely different basilica, larger and more majestic than its predecessors, a symbol for the might of Justinian's Empire. He had material brought from all over the empire – such as Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, large stones from porphyry quarries in Egypt, green marble from Thessaly, black stone from the Bosporus region, and yellow stone from Syria. More than ten thousand people were employed. The theories of Heron of Alexandria may have been utilized to address the challenges presented by building the dome over so large a space. With much pomp Justinian invited Patriarch Menas on 27 December 537 to consecrate the new basilica.

Cross-section of the basilica

Earthquakes in 553 and 557 caused cracks in the dome. In 558 the main dome collapsed during a subsequent earthquake.The emperor ordered an immediate restoration. He entrusted it to Isidorus the Younger who used lighter materials and increased the height of the dome to 6.25 meters giving the building its current interior height of 55.6 meter. Moreover, Isidorus strengthened the single-shell dome with ribs to a diameter of 32.7 by 33.5 m. This reconstruction was completed in 562. Further earthquakes in 859, 869, and 989 caused serious damages to the dome, which were repaired by Armenian masters.

Upon the capture of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the church was ransacked and desecrated by the Latin Christians, and many relics were shipped to Venice. During the Latin occupation of Constantinople (1204–1261) the church became a Roman Catholic cathedral.

After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottomans, Sultan Mehmed II converted Hagia Sophia into the Ayasofya Mosque and sourrounded it with the 4 minarets seen today. - It was converted into a strictly secularized museum in 1935.
Text shortened and modified from Wikipedia

Scottland, Isle of Iona, Iona Abbey

The cloisters of Iona 12th cent.

Iona was founded in 563. From here began the wave of early Christianization of Northern Europe as far as Saxony, Regensburg and Augsburg. Monks from Iona founded numerous monasteries among them also Kells in Ireland. The present buildings date from the 12th cent.
Text and p
hoto Wikipedia

Spain, Ourense, Cathedral
6th, 13th cent

Photo by saepiga, Panoramio

The cathedral is the most important monument in Ourense. The cathedral (founded 572; rebuilt in the 13th cent) is the second oldest in Galicia. It occupies the same site as the Suevian basilica that stood there in earlier times. Romanesque in structure, but with a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles, it is rather hidden away but, contains a façade with the Door of Paradise in imitation of the Door of Glory of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Georgia, Mtskheta, Djvari-Church
late 6th cent

Djvari, Holy Cross Church photo RWFG

The Holy Cross church high above Mtskheta is the Georgian national monument. Built in the late 6th-cent in the place where Nino, the Cappadocian woman who brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century, had erected a wooden cross.

Syria, Mar Mousa Monastery
6th cent

Mar Mousa in its mountain fast, Photo flickr.com

The Monastery of Mar Mousa al-Habashi is an active monastery in the Syrian mountains that dates from the 6th century. It was founded by St. Moses the Ethiopian.