Church, mosque, museum - on its way to one of Istanbul's most important landmarks, Hagia Sophia has played a number of different roles. Today it is one of the most visited museums in the world. So if you are planning a trip to Istanbul, don't forget to put "Holy Wisdom" on your bucket list.
Upon entering the sacred building you are sure to be amazed. The interior is dominated by the gigantic dome. It used to be the highest as well as the largest of its kind, giving Hagia Sophia the title of "eighth wonder of the world" during late antiquity and the Middle Ages. After a number of earthquakes it had to be repaired and restored various times. As the threat of earthquakes in the region remains, experts still fear for the dome's stability.
Moreover, you will find a range of mosaics, calligraphies, and tiles collected at the building throughout the centuries. As the Christian basilica was turned into a mosque, a good part of the Christian insignia and artwork was not destroyed, but merely covered up with Muslim replacements. When the building was finally converted into a museum, those responsible made sure to uncover remaining Christian artwork without damaging the Muslim pieces. Hence, today's visitors are presented with an impressive mix of both religions.
Exterior and Architecture
When you visit Hagia Sophia, don't forget to have a look at the exterior area as well. Besides a range of smaller buildings, you can find fountains and a number of sultan tombs.
Its large dome as well as its structural harmony give Hagia Sophia a unique architecture. Built under Emperor Justinian's reign in the 6th century, the former cathedral of Constantinople is one of the most important early Byzantine buildings. It has had a major impact on church architecture.
When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans around 900 years later, the basilica was converted into a mosque; minarets were added to the building's structure. Serving as the Ottomans' main mosque for centuries, it has also impacted the achitecture of future mosques.