Hagia Sophia – Soul of Istanbul
Istanbul is one of the remarkable cities in Turkey. It has remained the capital in the past. This city is home to religious memorials like The Chora Church, Rüstem Pasha Mosque, and Çamlica Mosque to entertaining spots like Fener and Balat, Eminönü Square, and The Hippodrome.
While searching for the best places in Istanbul, you will come across many choices. However, if you come to Istanbul and leave without visiting Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya, as called by the Natives, your visit will go in vain.
If you want to really see the soul of Istanbul and learn how history has played its role in developing this city, visiting Hagia Sophia will be the best option.
Curious about this remarkable monument of Istanbul and want to discover more? If yes, then keep flipping through!
The Majestic Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is the most visited sight in Istanbul. The building has undergone a lot of construction and modifications in the past. It is a former museum and church. Due to its unusual and exquisite architecture, it is acknowledged as the world’s most outstanding architectural work. The building has also been announced as the 8th wonder of the world by art chroniclers.
Hagia Sophia was built as a church in 325. It was rebuilt in 537. Faith Sultan Mehmet converted it into a Mosque after the triumph of Istanbul in 1453. The building was proclaimed as a museum in 1934. On 10th July 2020, the Turkey administration declared the Hagia Sophia a mosque. Before progressing toward its architecture, let’s have a glimpse at the Hagia Sophia history.
From Hagia Sophia Church to Hagia Sophia Mosque
Constantine I ordered to build the church (Hagia Sophia today) in 325 on the foundations of a barbarian temple. Constantinus II, the son of Constantine I, ordained it in 360. The church was scarred in 404 by a fire that exploded during an upheaval following the second eviction of St. John Chrysostom, then the patriarch of Constantinople.
Later, Roman emperor Constans I restored and expanded it. Theodosius II rededicated the restored building in 415. Unfortunately, during the Nika insurrection of January 532, the church was burned again. This situation allowed Justinian I to ponder an excellent replacement.
In 1453, Mehmed II repurposed Hagia Sophia as a mosque. He also added a lavish chandelier, a wooden minaret, a minbar, and a mihrab to the mosque. However, the actual wooden minaret did not withstand. Other minarets of the mosque were erected by Bayezid II, Selim II, and Murad III.
The mosque was turned into a museum in 1935 during Kemal Atatürk. However, in 2020 Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan converted the building into a mosque again.
Hagia Sophia: Architecture Analysis
Hagia Sophia dome is 32-meter long, substantiated on pendentives and two semi-domes on both sides of the longitudinal axis. No one ever tried to mimic the domes of Hagia Sophia; that’s why it remained unique. Although the building was planned to be constructed in a square shape, it looks rectangular from the inside.
The mosque has three hallways segregated by columns with alleys above and giant marble docks rising at each end to support the dome.
Like marble columns, carved capitals and cornices have also survived. However, the other original decorations have succumbed.
What to See at Hagia Sophia?
Hagia Sophia is not an ordinary building. It has so many worth seeing aspects. It embodies a rich chronology. However, you might wonder what to see at this remarkable mosque.
You will see the buttresses, minarets, elementary school, public fountains, Sultan tombs, timing room, almshouse, and treasury building at the mosque’s exterior.
Seeing the interior will be the most exciting part of your tour. It will be like striding into the holy realm of Islam and Christianity. You will observe history merged on the shell-like alcove and under a glorious dome.
Hagia Sophia inside displays a wide array of art and architectural works from hundreds of decades: for instance, colorful frescoes and Christian mosaics from the Byzantine epoch.
Besides adoring Hagia Sophia mosaics, you will admire:
- Impressive domes
- Divine calligraphic panes
- Muezzin’s Loge
- Intricate tiles
- Tombstone of commandant Enrico Dandolo,
- Private Sections
- Sultan’s Lodge
- Marble cubes
- Viking scripture
- Library of Sultan Mahmud I
- Wishing column and
- Doors of Hagia Sophia
When to Visit Hagia Sophia?
Hagia Sophia remains open the whole day so that you can visit it anytime. The entrance is entirely free, so you do not need to pay anything to visit the mosque.
Etiquettes to Follow While Visiting
- Both non-Muslims and Muslims are permitted to enter the mosque.
- Remove your shoes before you embark on the mosque’s carpets.
- Show respect to people praying there. Also, be mindful of the five prayer timings of the day. Avoid running and standing in front of people praying. Avoid making noise in the mosque.
- Women should wear a head covering before visiting the Hagia Sophia. You can get the headscarves at the entrance of the mosque for free.
- You cannot capture the pictures of people praying there. Other than that, you can take as many photographs as you want.
- Remember that some parts of the mosque remain closed for visitors on Friday for worship at midday so that the worshippers do not get disturbed. You may plan the visit at any other time if you do not want to miss any part of the mosque.
- It is advisable to acknowledge every story and detail and keenly observe mosaics, architecture, dome, decorations, and upper galleries. You can hire a tour guide to understand better everything associated with Hagia Sophia. However, stay aware of unofficial guides.
- Spare at least 1 or 2 hours for your visit to the Hagia Sophia so that you can witness everything in detail. It is good to plan your day together with Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace as they are within walking distance.
- The beauty of the mosque is heightened by natural light. So, it is better to visit it during daylight.
- The mosque is crowded with locals on weekends and Fridays, so visit on other days if you want to avoid the crowds.
You will be amazed to see the exterior and interior of the remarkable and impressive Hagia Sophia. The vigorous history of this mosque distinguishes it from other buildings in Istanbul. Best of luck with your visit!