Hagia Sophia is a former greek orthodox christian patriarchal basilica. Then it has turned, during the ottoman era, into an imperial mosque. Built in 537, its construction took over 1000 years to be completed. At that time it was the largest cathedral in Europe until the cathedral of Seville was built. It is now a museum about art and history of Architecture, and one of the most visited museum in the world!
Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet on the European side of Istanbul. This iconic religious landmark has been a dominant part of the skyline for many centuries. There is evidence inside of its history with some of the original Christian frescoes in the ceiling revealed once more to those who climb up to the first-floor gallery where there is also an impressive collection of pictures and photographs. The Muslim symbols hang impressively above what was the prayer floor. Those Muslim features were first installed in the later part of the 15th Century after the Ottomans took the then Christian City of Constantinople and went on to establish a huge Empire that survived until the First World War. The more obvious signs of Islam perhaps were the addition of minarets outside what became the mosque. Its importance to Islam waned slightly when the Blue Mosque nearby was completed in 1616 but it still stood in its magnificence,
Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece designed by two of the most talented men of the 6th Century, Isidoros and Anthemios. Today’s museum actually sits one a site where there had already been two churches before the building of Hagia Sophia in the times of the Emperor Justinian. The second church had been destroyed during riots early in Justinian’s reign which actually lasted until 565. It was first opened for prayer in 537 at which point Justinian declared he has beaten Suleyman’s temple in Jerusalem. He had been determined to do saw, calling on the provinces to send their best materials. There are three different colored marbles; white from Marmara, pink from Afyon and yellow from North Africa. The columns were brought from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus and also from Egypt. In total, there are over 100 columns on ground floor and gallery. The domed structure is complex and needed to be adapted several times so that the dome which is in fact elliptical could be free-standing. The dome did once collapse completely incidentally. It has a radius east-west that is a meter shorter than north-south. It is over 55 meters from the floor to the ceiling of the dome. The overall dimensions are 100 meters long and 70 meters wide. The Ottomans added additional supporting columns; remember this is a region prone to earthquakes and Hagia Sophia has not always been in the best of condition. The Turkish Republic was formed in 1923 and a few years later, Hagia Sophia was closed for renovations, reopening in 1935 as a museum for everyone to enjoy. All signs of Christianity, typically the frescoes, had been plastered over but subsequently some great examples have been revealed once more. It is not open for worship except there is a small room that has been opened for prayer and the ‘’call to prayer’’ is pronounced from the minarets. Although there has been talk in some places of Hagia Sophia becoming a mosque again, at this stage it is only talk. There is always a queue to get into Hagia Sophia but it usually moves very quickly so it is just a matter of being patient. You can spend as much time as you like once inside until it closes in the early evening. There is certainly plenty to see on the two floors and often the only constraint on a visitor is time because of the other nearby gems to visit.