The Hagia Sophia

The construction of the grand Church of Divine Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) was commissioned by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and begun in 532 over the foundations of an earlier basilica and  completed in 548. This cathedral was considered the greatest Christian church until it was taken by  the Turks upon the conquest of Istanbul and converted into a mosque in 1453.Through its almost 1500 years of existence the church has undergone several major catastrophes  and several restorations (some catastrophic as well). No matter the changes, the Hagia Sophia  (today a museum) still reflects the glory of its long past. Leave yourself enough time to really explore the church and its grounds. Climb up to the balconies and get a closer look at the magnificent dome as you wonder at that ancient technological building feat. The mosaics are superb, as is the step into the past that a visit to the Hagia Sophia affords. The museum is open every day other than Mondays.



Some sources maintain that the Hagia Sophia Church was first built during the reign of the Constantine the Great (324-337). It’s believed that nothing remained from that very first construction of the church. The church burnt down during an upheaval. Theodosius II. had it rebuilt for the second time and opened it to public in 415. The basilica was burned down once again, during the co called “Nika” revolt in 532. Some ruins of this second building were discovered during the excavations in 1936.
Emperor Justinian wanted to build a church bigger than the previous two Hagia Sophia Churches and the new church was completed in 537. Besides the unique architecture of the building, the mosaics are also important artifacts of the period. The oldest mosaics – gold gilded with geometrical and floral designs – may be found in the inner narthex as well as in side naves. Figural mosaics from 9 – 12 centuries have survived until today. After the conquest of Istanbul, the museum was used as a mosque. The art works surrounding the mihrab includes the best samples of Turkish pottery and calligraphy. With its interior design, pottery and architecture it’s one of the most outstanding examples of the Ottoman tradition.
After serving as a church for 916 years and as a mosque for 481 years, Hagia has been sustaining its historical function as a museum since 1935.



First built by Emperor Constantine in 60 A.D., Hagia Sophia was burned during the 404 uprising and destroyed in the Nike riots
of 532. Rebuilt by Emperor Justinian between 532 and 537 as a symbol of ’renewed unity’ between the divided Roman Empire,
it was dedicated to Holy Wisdom. Previously built on a circular plan, this later church of Justinian was designed by the
mathematicians Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus as a rectangular basilica, with a dome supported by 107 pillars.
View the interior from the balcony to see its harmonious detail and experience the wonderful feeling of light. Putting a finger in
the hole in the northwest pillar is said to bring luck. In 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror converted the church into a mosque.

In 1573, it was renovated by the architect Sinan. In 1847, Sultan Abdulmecid ordered repairs to be
carried out by the architect brothers Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati. During restoration work, the mosaics
whitewashed over in 1750, were painstakingly revealed by Whittemore. In 1934, the building
was closed for worship and became a museum.

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