Travels, Turkey

Hagia Sophia: A church, a mosque and a Museum

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 to the most historical events of Istanbul. Located in the old city of Istanbul in Sultan Ahmet, this magnificent structure is a part of Istanbul’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.

Related Post: Seven ways to enjoy Istanbul

 

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 Islāmic 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 museums I have never visited.

Related Post: Topkapi Palace, the Imperial Palace of Istanbul

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 the 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 altar 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 a 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 into a mosque. A 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
Deesis Mosaic on the eastern wall of the northern gallery dating back to the 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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41 thoughts on “Hagia Sophia: A church, a mosque and a Museum

  1. I would consider Hagia Sophia as one of the top 10 architectural sites that I would love to visit someday. It is so beautiful and majestic. Your photos have done it so much justice. I would love to have the opportunity to see it for myself someday.

  2. Istanbul is the quintessential melting pot of the cultures and hence a polyglot place. Ever since I visited Jordan, Byzantine and Ottoman histories intrigued me. Turkish mosques have such a unique architecture. I loved all the pictures you have shared here.

  3. The Hagia Sophia looks amazing and I love the way you described the meeting up of several religions over the course of centuries. It’s really inspiring me to go!

  4. Glad to know Istanbul government is doing so much to protect and maintain its architectural marvel. The height of the Emperor door is impressive. The interiors of the church is beautiful. I would love to visit this place when in Istanbul. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I’m planning to visit Istanbul in January. The Hagia Sophia and the UNESCO region are a point of interest I will definitely add to my itinerary. You’ve photographed it in such detail . At 182 feet in height it’s pretty huge!

  6. I’ve had Hagia Sophia on my list for a long time too but I’m get to visit. The Islamic and Christianity relics fascinate would always fascinate me. Seeing this museum closely now, I realized I never noticed it Byzantine influence. I’ll love to visit Hagia Sophia someday and relish its splendour.

  7. Oh my goodness, all of this looks so beautiful!!! I have Turkey on my list but to be honest hadn’t heard of Hagia Sophia. I think I’ll get to Turkey next year, so I’m going to pin this for when I go! Your beautiful photos have really motivated me even more.

  8. I am fascinated by Hagia Sophia , purely because of the history. The cathedral , converted into a mosque and later a museum is quite fascinating in nature. I can’t wait to see it in real. Lovely photographs. Loved reading about it. .

    1. Thank you Yogi! No, since we are married and residing in different cities we travel with our respective husband’s now..:)

  9. That is a very detailed post and thank you for sharing such amazing pictures. Istanbul has a luxurious heritage and it is on our bucket list since forever. Hope we make it someday

  10. Enjoyed the historical background in the narration. Istanbul has been in my bucket list for the longest time. It is high time I finally get there.

  11. Hagia Sophia had intrigued me since I read about it in a book. The place is a perfect blend of various culture. The interiors of the church are wonderful. Your post had transported me to the place I so wanted to visit!

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