Hagia Sophia: A church, a mosque and a Museum

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya as the locals fondly call this architectural marvel, is a millennium and a half old building which stands as a testament for the most historical events of Istanbul. Located in the old city of Istanbul in Sultan Ahmet, this magnificent structure is a part of Istanbulโ€™s Historic Areas UNESCO World Heritage site along with the other historic locations and buildings of the city.

Hagia Sophia

This world-famous landmark of Istanbul has gone through numerous changes under the two greatest empires, Byzantine and Ottoman since its construction. Originally built as a church in 325 AD by Roman emperor Constantine I, the structure was damaged by the fire in 404 AD, which was enlarged and rebuilt later by Constant I but once again it became the victim of fire and fell under the doomed state during the Nika riots of Istanbul. It was after this the emperor Justinian I envisioned and rebuilt a grand cathedral between 532-537 AD which we see today. Although the massive dome of the cathedral was partially destroyed in the earthquake in 558 AD it was restated in the mid 14th century.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia or The church of Holy Wisdom was used as a church for 916 years until the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 and Mehmed II remodeled this into an imperial mosque adding four Minarets, a mihrab in the exterior and a minbar, chandelier and disks bearing Islamic calligraphy to the interiors. After 482 years, Hagia Sophie was finally converted to the present day museum and is now open to visit for the tourists from all over the world.

Hagia Sophia

After seeing tons of pictures of this timeless monument of Istanbul on every social media sites for years now, I had it as my top priority to visit this when in Istanbul. After our tour of Topkapi Place, my husband and I walked towards Hagia Sophia which is just ten minutes away from the palace. Purchasing the entry tickets from the counter (which costs 40 TL) we walked inside this unbelievably grand and beautiful museum and I must say this was by far one of the oldest museum I have never visited.

Hagia Sophia

We walked in through the Emperor Door and were greeted by a massive room with high walls, ornamentally decorated ceilings, numerous marble pillars, beautiful chandeliers and an enormous dome and it felt as if we walked through a time machine and entered the Sultanate era of Istanbul. The beauty of Hagia Sophia when seen in person is truly awe inspiring with its stupendous interiors, where the walls are adorned with Christian frescos, plaques with Islamic calligraphy showing us the glimpse of its past.

Hagia Sophia
The Emperor door is the largest door in Hagia Sophia from 6th century
Hagia Sophia
Interior of Hagia Sophia Nave with the view of its majestic dome
Hagia Sophia
Disks bearing Islamic calligraphy
Hagia Sophia
View of the grand alter of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
The Apse Mosaic in the Hagia Sophia alter shows the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia
The Minbar showing the best marble workmanship of 16th century Ottoman era.

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After wandering through the Nave for a while, we ventured on to the upper gallery walking through the ancient, uneven stoned ramp. From the upper gallery you will be able to get an uninterrupted view of the Nave and the majestic dome of Hagia Sophia. Among the various architectural features of Hagia Sophia, its massive dome has gained lot of attention over the years. The dome stands 182 feet 5 inches from the ground level and 102 feet 6 inches in diameter is supported by the smaller domes on the sides.

Hagia Sophia

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Hagia Sophia
View of the Nave from the upper gallery
Hagia Sophia
View of the Nave from the upper gallery

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

The upper gallery has some of the beautiful mosaic arts from the Byzantine time which were covered with the yellow paint when the building was converted to a mosque. Lot of restoration work is still under progress inside the Hagia Sophia, so one part of the Nave was occupied by the lots of scaffoldings.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia
Deisis Mosaic on the eastern wall of the northern gallery dating back to 13th century
Hagia Sophia
Zoe Mosaic dating back to 11th century symbolizes the donations made by the emperor’s family for the restorations of Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia

But nevertheless, nothing damped our tour of this monument as being inside one of the ancient monument was quite exciting for us.

Hagia Sophis is open from 9.00-19.00 during summer and 9.00-17.00 in winter and the cost per ticket is 40 TL.

Hope you guys enjoyed reading this post! Have you visited this world famous monument? Please do leave a comment below regarding the thoughts about it.

 



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