"[...] the church was dedicated by Emperor Justinian on December 27, 537. That was a ceremony to be repeated each year on the same date for nine centuries to come. The emperor led the way into the great church, where, in the words of an anonymous recorder, “the first gleam of light rosy-armed driving away the great shadows leapt from arch to arch” and “all the princes and people with one voice hymned their songs of prayer and praise.” Hand in hand with the patriarch, Justinian proceeded down the nave, prostrated himself before the altar, and entered the sanctuary. There he kissed the holy chalices, the golden patens, the corporal cloth, and the holy gilded cross - and there he played his role in the sacred drama of the Divine Liturgy.
On the day of this historic inauguration, Justinian emerged in state from his palace in a four-horse chariot. He sacrificed 1,000 oxen, 6,000 sheep, 600 stags, and some 10,000 birds before giving 30,000 bushels of meal to the poor and needy. Accompanied by the patriarch, he then proceeded to the church. Entering its royal gates, the emperor released the patriarch’s hand, which he had been holding, and hastened on alone into the ambo. Extending his arms toward heaven, he cried, “Glory to God, Who has deemed me worthy of fulfilling such a work. O Solomon, I have surpassed thee.”
The Hagia Sophia as it stands today.