Iliona Outram-Khalili

Architecture PhD Student


Unity within diverse multiplicity: Masonry, method, and analogy in the Byzantine Church of Hagia Sophia, Thessaloniki

Architecture is a mute medium. It presents neither pictures nor words. It’s power is through analogy, as a medium of expression felt by the whole human body. This thesis proposes that load-bearing masonry architecture contains analogies for timeless, metaphysical concepts about God, Man and the Universe, experienced with all the senses. Yet how can one prove this if historical masons never wrote it down? This thesis focuses on the masonry church of Hagia Sophia, Thessaloniki by comparing three disciplines: the ritual, the iconography, and the masonry architecture. It is a unique example of the Byzantine dome-in-cross design, with original iconography, and where Byzantine liturgies are still celebrated. Primary theological texts as well as 6th century eulogies to the building ‘typos’ of Hagia Sophia, assist this comparison. Analogies in all three disciplines, indicate an intentional programme of mystagogy, as a journey to mature consciousness for the masons and for the public.


Through concepts like work ‘not made by hands’ (acheiropoeiton), transubstantiation, and the ‘ladder of ascent and descent’, the research begins to uncover an architectural poetics of ‘unity within diverse multiplicity’ in harmony with the natural world, much needed at a time that humans are destroying the earth.