On December 15, 2018, I wrote a post titled “What Really Drives me Inside“ and I want to tell a little bit more about Hagia Irene in order to explain why I believe that this architecture has a universal value. I suggest to show you the architectural features at first, then to transpose life into this building and imagine the way builders and architects may have conceived it. Lastly, I will explain the impact of this act of conception into humanity, how something may have born with it that changed the way we perceive our modern societies.
To understand the importance of Hagia Irene, you need to imagine the first human beings living in a cave and waiting in the cold for the return of Summer. The Sun rises and there is a zenith where it seams to stay and watch. Then the Sun walks away to return after the night. There are days when the sky is covered with rain and days when birds are passing through. The hunters and gatherers were the first humans, watching every single moment for prays to rise from the sprouts of heaven. There were times for abundance and times for famine and the sky would tell when death is close.
Christmas is the first and the last day of the year, the beginning and the end, the time when nature will renew into a cycle of seasons. First the days will get longer, then in Spring they get warmer. Rain and sun will bring flowers and with them the abundance of fauna. Then flowers will grow their heart into a beautiful fruit and the seeds will propagate their bones on Earth. All this energy will exhaust Nature and it will come a dawn to rest when the leaves fall down like a cloth to turn the trees into a night. The roots stay warm and slowly recover from the effort of growing all their energy out. Soon, Christmas will wake them up again.
This cycle of the light increasing and decreasing on Earth is called the perihelion in Winter when the days start to increase and the aphelion in Summer when they start to decrease. Each cycle in geometry finds a parallel with Pi when 1 Pi draws half the circle and the other half of Pi closes it. The 2Pi are found in The Name of God as a way to explain the cycle of life, and the endless regeneration with no beginning and no end.
One of the name of God is called the Tetragrammaton, what in Greek means the four letters. Each of these letters have a meaning in Hebrew but their universal value comes from their geometrical meaning with alternatively Pi 7 Pi 7.
Pi and the seven units were found in the design of the pyramid of Cheops and we can trace with most certainty its origin in 2580 – 2560 BC. The first historical mention of the Tetragrammaton is dated 840 BC on the Mesha Stele of Jordan. Akhenaton and Moses lived during the 14th century BC and it is believed that their stories may be related (See my post here). The Tetragrammaton have been explained with the Ark of the Covenant which I believe is the geometrical heritage from Cheops through Akhenaton. This geometrical heritage that synthesizes the light in Pi was the origin of monotheism. As Plato said, everything is number and monotheism lays in numbers.
The geometry developed in Egypt was a global achievement of thousand years observations of Earth, of the seasons and the Sun and from these observations, ancient priests had explored everything they may know about life and death. In architecture, life and death is a passage, or what Aldous Huxley would call the doors – “There are things known and things unknown, and in between are the doors“. The symbol of the cross is the key of one of those doors between the known and the unknown.
Have you ever watched the eyes of a cat? They are like the doors to the unknown, something that brings to the spirit in behind the iris of the eye. The half dome of Hagia Irene is like an eye with the key hole inside and the cross symbolizes a geometry of Pi with an axe of time between the rise and the decline, the beginning and the end, the death and the life and more importantly, the rebirth, the resurrection.
Hagia Irene is at the junction between Europe and Asia and the influence of Constantinople has reached China. In ancient Chinese Shang numerals, the Pi symbol means 6, the cross means 7, the number 8 is represented with two half circles. We find many parallels between the Egyptian geometry of Pi and Taoism in China. The origin of Taoism may also find roots in the Hongshan culture dated 4700 to 2900 BC. The Hongshan culture belongs to the “Transeurasian” linguistic context . The Hongshan culture is famous for its jade circles and the allegory of the Sun represented with the dragon that we still find in Chinese culture. The color of Jade is also a feature of the architecture of Constantinople where the green emerald and green marbles cover the walls with mosaics.
The Hongshan culture associates the circle with the dragon as an allegory of the Sun. The Hongshan circle in Chinese is called Bi (like Pi with a nasal consonance). In Hagia Irene, the dome is a 3D representation of half the circle with the cross to symbolize the cycles of life, the thin passage between life and death that lays between the day and the night, the aphelion and the perihelion. The Christ Mas celebrates this transition into a resurrection of the light.
In the synagogue of Beit Alpha in Israel, the main area is divided in three panels. At the entrance is the binding of Isaac showing the hand of God that commands Abraham to not sacrifice his son. Above is the zodiac wheel with the four seasons at the corners. In the center of the zodiac wheel is the Greek God Helios with the radiate crown and the quadriga. The last panel on the upper part is the temple of Salomon with two menorahs and gardens. Above the temple of Salomon are few steps that bring to the bimah (or bema in Greek) with the benches right inside the apse. In Hagia Irene, the nave is also terminated with the apse in which we can see the cross. The synagogue of Beit Alpha and the basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna have both two aisle on each side of the nave.
In Hagia Irene, the center part of the nave is covered with a dome what finds a parallel with the zodiac wheel in the synagogue of Beit Alpha. Despite the many similarities with the synagogue of Beit Alpha, Hagia Irene is a basilica.
The apse is oriented to the East where the sun rises. It is composed of a synthronon, 3 semicircular-headed windows and the cross inside the semi-dome. This juxtaposition of elements defines a scenography where “actors” in religious costumes will play a scene. The bishop usually symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ (the decline of the light) and his glory (the resurrection of the light). The hierarchy of the clergy represent the Christ among his disciples. Behind the “actors” who play the biblical scene and below the benches, there is a corridor from where a prompter can whisper the interpretation of scripture.
Hagia Irene is a “basilica“, so as to say, the place of a “basileus” from the Greek term basileus, Βασιλεύς, “king” and the Latin word basilica derives from the Greek “basilikè stoá”, the “royal stoa”, the “walkway”, originally referring to the tribunal chamber of a king. So what are the actors playing? The Hebrew history, the Latin history or the Greek one?
Maybe the actors were not playing history. Instead, they were making history by educating the people on the right and the wrong through public hearings where a defendant would appear in front of the court that would arbitrate and judge in the name of God (and mostly the king). Considering that Hagia Irene is close to the harbor, at the cross roads between Europe and Asia and under the influence of Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia and maybe merchants coming from as far as India and China, the tribunal chamber became more than a court. It became a philosophical oratorium where a court would debate, expose and explain what may legislate in the law as far as the trades may go. With the apostles, the law was widespread around the Mediterranean and the Black Seas (see my post on the geography of the apostles).
In San Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, the Cross is made with mosaics similar to Hagia Irene. The cross is outlined in black with a gold ground. The ends are flared along with having teardrop shapes at the end. The cross stands on a basement of 3 steps. In San Apollinare Nuovo, the cross is inscribed inside a circle and around the circle is the imagery of a garden with sheep and a shepherd. Above the cross is a bearded Jesus (the man of sorrows) with the book of the law. The sheep are walking toward him in a pyramidal ascension.
In the synagogue of Beit Alpha, the temple of Salomon is represented with the same shape as the number 6 in the Shang numerals and it is surrounded by a garden that appears to come from behind the curtains. The temple of Salomon is built with three rows of columns and above the central column is half a circle to symbolize the sun.
You will find on my writing about geometry this similar shape used to define the Egyptian royal cubit, define the North and the solar axes of a building.
In the Forbidden City in China, the Imperial garden is the most secret part of the palace, next to the Kunning Palace. The throne in the Hall of the Supreme Harmony has six pillars covered with gold and dragons in reference to ancient sacred geometry found in Egypt and the Hongshan culture.
In San Vitale of Ravenne, the cross is replaced with a monk on an orb with the letter Z on his dress. The letter Z is the 7th letter of the Greek alphabet. It is also the last letter of the Koine alphabet, the Alexandrian language of the Bible. This letter symbolizes the unity of Egypt with Greece around the Mediterranean sea. The definition of a language, Greek rather than Latin, is the signature of a power, an authority and a scholastic. Here, the Greek Christianity is taking over the Roman Empire. The philosopher is taking over the army. The priest who is entitled with the Koine symbol crowns the king and gives the church. The king is represented as the man and the Church is represented as the woman. She is the purity of the lamb below the green cupola. She is “Theodora”, the “Gift of God”. She is Esmeralda, the emerald of the cupola and she carries the Graal.
I believe that the stories of Theodora and Abraham are related. Abraham was married to Sarah with who he had a son, Isaac who was the father of Jacob, and the grandfather of the twelve tribes of Israel. Abraham had a first son, Ishmael with Hagar who was bought in Egypt as the slave of Sarah. Ishmael was the patriarch of the Qedarites kingdom and the ancestor of the Arabs. The narrative in the Book of Genesis revolves around the themes of posterity and land. More importantly, God “talks” to Abraham and commands him to take the land of Canaan, then to sacrifice his son Isaac, then to choose a lamb instead.
In the various unions of Abraham, there is a legitimate wife, then a slave and a second wife. Empress Theodora was a slave and dancer who studied in a monastery of Egypt. She was married to Justinian and thus was legitimate. She symbolizes the inheritance from Abraham and with her, the right of the land. The women behind her are depicted with dresses and wigs in the style of the Armana culture. One woman carries a dress with the octogones of the house of Saint Peter (learn more on this other post). Theodora is a symbol of Egypt while Justinian represents the Greco-Roman Empire. They are married with the church in a union that harmonizes the juridical system over Europe, Asia and Africa.
Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene (Ἁγία Εἰρήνη in Greek) means the Holy Peace. The cross, which is associated with the number 7 also refers to the two rods, the rod of Aaron and the rod of Moses. The apse is elongated like an ark above all the kingdoms and the tablets of stone are written in the law like an architecture designed to vow the soul in allegiance to the mysteries of the light. The shape of the windows are the table of the law itself and they find their origin in Egypt as the law of life and death.
The bull (or the calf) is a representation of the solar energy that breed with the cow, the Hathor goddess and this energy is passing to human toward the milk. The garden is also a representation of this energy passing from nature to the blood through food and medicine. A garden is a source of food, of seeds to regenerate the garden, of plants and medicine, of flowers and bugs, of farm animals. It is a source of life On the Egyptian tablets, numeral and geometric symbols are offered to the God, but this God is not a calf. It is the energy of a calf in a language that has used images and metaphors to express a philosophy. A constant of those tablets are the notion of time during a day, when the Sun defines the metric and the foundations of sacred buildings (read my blog to learn more).
The first Jewish temple was a tent built in the desert by Moses and I believe that the model of this tent was inherited from Ancient Egypt, the kind of tent to capture the light and draw geometries from the light that settle the foundations of sacred buildings. The tent has become the model of the temple of Salomon where the sacred scipture is kept in the labyrinth of knowledge. Synagogues, which are schools, are the thread to enter the labyrinth by learning the sacred symbols. The Hebrew alphabet and the Hebrew words are part of the mysteries.
While the architecture of the first churches is common with the synagogues, San Apollinare Nuovo and San Vitale of Ravenna separate from Hagia Irene. The iconoclast representations open the tribunal chamber to a new concept that establishes European aristocraties, European feudalism and a political power of the church that will separate the people in different classes where one religion becomes a fable. Jesus, Mary and the Saints become the characters of fictitious stories where they embody an anthropomorphic and ethnocentric representation of God through the character of the Emperor. The sense of life is mystified with iconographic popular stories where miracles and sensational actions become the new normal. Christianity is Romanized in Ravenne in what Dante would call later The Divine Comedy.
The architecture of Constantinople shows a unity between the Jewish culture and the Greco Roman culture. This unity will brake with the heritage from Theodora, when Christianity becomes a codification of the law for the privilege of an Empire whose blood is Greco-Roman and Egyptian. Judaism is marginalized into a separate aristocracy whose kingdom has been swallowed by many views and philosophies.
Until now, the philosophy of the calf has remained a mystery while its laws still govern our modern societies. Patriarchy has dominated under the Roman rule and Christianity has legislated the concept with rituals and contracts to make it a law where women change identity with new name, new status, new rights and new family laws that limit their rights on their children, establish their hierarchy and define their role in the society as wife, mothers and widows. The law defines their rights of property and the patrimony of their children. The first son of Abraham born from a slave was deprived of his inheritance on land. The Abrahamique tradition has survived the revolutions and is still in practice in laic and secularist countries where marriage is still a patriarchal custom that defines the rights of legitimate and illegitimate children.
In the light of Hagia Irene I wish you peace despite all the questions that remain and I invite you to read my blog on geometry to understand why the cross is associated with the number 7.