The Omphalion of Hagia Sophia

The Omphalion of Hagia Sophia. Photo Credit:

The Omphalion was, for at least much of Byzantine history, the coronation spot for Eastern Roman Emperors. It could have also have been a place to sit during liturgy. It was revealed when Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum by Ataturk, and the carpets covering the Byzantine floor were removed. I am happy to see it has remained uncovered during the current tenure of Hagia Sophia as a mosque.I personally hope that it returns to a museum and this feature remains on display.

It is a magnificent example of opus sectile marble art. It has brilliant colors and shapes. It has been repaired over time due to earthquake damage so parts of it seem slightly off and asymmetrical, but overall it’s in great condition. Dating it is complex due to vague and sporadic mentions in the historical record. None of the descriptions similar to the Omphalion are an exact match or rich in details. It is possible it was part of the original Hagia Sophia of Justinian, or added during later eras. In my opinion it seems likely it was original and simply modified and redecorated over time which would account for all the theories about its age. It was probably used to crown Latin Crusader “Emperors” during their disastrous occupation of Constantinople from 1204-1261. I find it a particularly fascinating part of Hagia Sophia, I wish I could stand on it!


Omphalion –