The Iconic Hagia Sophia of Istanbul

by vacationideaz
hagia sofia mosque

Hagia Sophia is a grand Byzantine-style mosque in Istanbul. On the western side of the city, it is close to many other tourist attractions in the city like the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar. Hagia Sophia was a center of religious, artistic, and political life during the Byzantine empire. Hagia Sophia was initially constructed as a cathedral, but it later became a mosque and is now a museum. It has provided many scholarly insights. It used to be one of the most important centers of worship in the Muslim world.

When it was constructed in 537 AD, it was the largest building in the world. It is made with brick and mortar. Ceramic has been distributed evenly. The building is famous for its 55.6 meters’ tall dome from the floor.

The name ‘Hagia Sophia’ means ‘Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God.’ It is called ‘Ayasofya’ in Turkish.

Between 537 and 1453, the Hagia Sophia was a cathedral of the Orthodox Catholic order. Between 1204 and 1261, during the Latin rule of Turkey, it was a Roman Catholic Cathedral. After 1453, the Ottoman Turks took control of the region. They kept the structure intact but made changes so that it can be used as a mosque. Hagia Sophia was opened to the public as a museum only in 1935 under the Atatürk government.

In recent times, Muslim Turks are making a strong appeal to repurpose the Hagia Sophia as a mosque again.

Hagia Sophia – Quick Facts

Hagia SophiaByzantine basilica with beautiful mosaics.
LocationSultanahmet, in the European part of Istanbul.
AddressSultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydanı,
34122 Fatih/İstanbul
How to ReachTram Station: Sultanahmet
Suburban Rail Station: Cankurtaran
Open Times15th April to 31st Oct – 9 AM to 7 PM
1st November to 14th April – 9 AM to 5 PM
Main AttractionsInterior of the dome, Leon mosaic, Emperor Door
SymbolismIn Turkey, Hagia Sophia is seen as a symbol of peace, harmony, and tolerance

Top 6 Attractions At The Hagia Sophia

1. Virgin Mary Mosaic – You will find a beautiful mosaic of the Virgin Mary at the main exit. On her right side is the Byzantine ruler Constantine who can be seen offering her Constantinople. To the left, see Emperor Justinian who is offering her the Hagia Sophia. When the cathedral was converted to a mosque, many Christian religious mosaics were painted over. This one has survived.

Hagia Sophia Virgin Mary Mosaic

2. The Weeping Column – In the northern aisle near the Imperial Door, there is a column with a hole in the center. It is said that this was sanctified by Saint Gregory. He was a saint who cured many people’s sicknesses. To this day, people pray for good health by inserting a finger into the hole in this column.

3. The Dome – The impressively large and high dome of the Hagia Sophia is an architectural marvel. It is hard to imagine how it was engineered in 537 AD. Marble, stone and specially made bricks have been used in construction. The dome has been rebuilt and repaired keeping the original structure intact.

4. Leon Mosaic – This mosaic dates back to the 10th century. It depicts Jesus in a centrally seated position with the Virgin Mary and Gabriel in two medallions on either side. The Roman Emperor Leon VI is in a praying position at the feet of Christ. This mosaic is located on the Emperor’s Door.

Emperor Door Hagia Sophia

5. Emperor Door – This is the largest door in the building complex. It was used only by the Emperors and their entourage. The door dates back to the 6th century. Made of oak, it is 7 meters in length and has a bronze frame. It is believed that the wood for these doors came from Noah’s Ark.

6. Tombs – The Hagia Sophia is the final resting place of five sultans from the 16th and 17th-century Ottoman eras. They are Mehmet III, Selim II, Murat III, Ibrahim I and Mustafa I. Gorgeous ceramic tiles decorate the tombs of these kings.

Visit both the Grand Bazaar and the Topkapi Palace from Hagia Sofia. They are both close.

What Is Hagia Sofia Known For?

Now, it is known as the Ayasofya Museum. In the Middle Ages, this used to be the most important Christian cathedral. However, it was later converted into a mosque during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. In 1935, it was converted into a museum.

The Weeping Column

What Does It Symbolize?

The locals of Istanbul consider Hagia Sophia to be a symbol of peace, harmony, and tolerance. It is a meeting point of many religions. In the walls, you will see a blend of Christianity symbols and Islamic art. You can learn more about its history here.

Why Is Hagia Sophia A Wonder Of The World?

Hagia Sofia was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world because of its Byzantine architecture. You can see the design and culture of the time when it was constructed – 532 AD. The Ottoman influences are evident in its structure and décor.

Hagia Sophia Museum

Hagia Sophia FAQ

  • The museum is closed on Mondays
  • Children 8 years or younger have free entry
  • There are audio guides in 12 languages for a fee at the museum entrance

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