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Hagia Sophia : One Of The Most Beautiful Constructions in The World

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is considered one of the most beautiful constructions in the world. But this building is not just beautiful, it also holds a fascinating story and it is an invitation to travel in time. It is a museum that holds many influences accumulated along centuries and with mosaics and marble pieces that date back to the Byzantine Empire. Come to know more about this UNESCO's World Heritage Site.

When was Hagia Sophia built?

We know that Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, located in the highest point of the city, was built as a cathedral at least three times. The first one was in 360 BC, ordered by the emperor Constantius, and the last by emperor Justinius II between 527 BC and 565 BC. 

In the first time, the cathedral had a wooden roof that was burned during riots that occurred due people's dissatisfaction with the emperor. When the structure was built for the second time, another wooden roof would replace the previous one, and even though it would last for another century, a new fire would put it down. Unable to be repaired this time, a new one was built.

The structure as we see it today is from the VI century. The dome partially collapsed in 558 due an earthquake, then two further partial collapses forced it to be restored in a smaller scale. Next restoration would occur only around 1350.

Throughout the centuries, Hagia Sophia served not only as a church, but also as basilica and mosque - it even served as a resting place to Enrique Dandolo, a Venetian duke that died in Constantinople in 1205. 

What are Hagia Sophia's characteristics?

Hagia Sophia has Orthodox elements, a beautiful 32 meters doomed roof, and a semi-domed altar with two porches. The marble on the floor and ceiling came from Syria and Anatolia, bricks from North Africa, and mosaics cover the dome's supporting arches.

The columns were reused, originally coming from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, and from Egypt. In total, the building is 240 feet in width and 269 feet in length.

What is Hagia Sophia's story?

After serving as cathedral for over one thousand years, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was taken first by the Venetians and then by the Crusaders on the 4th Crusade. During the brief period in the XIII century that the city was under Roman control, Hagia Sophia was very damaged but was fortunately repaired under the control of the Byzantine Empire.

Finally, in 1453 Constantinople was conquered by the Turkish and renamed Istanbul. Mehmed II decided to transform Hagia Sophia into a mosque and therefore he added a wooden minaret, a mihrab (to indicate the direction of Mecca), a pulpit, and a beautiful chandelier. The Ottomans covered many original mosaics with Islamic calligraphy. Works were most probably continued by Mehmed II's sons, and later by other ottoman emperors. 

When Kemal Atatürk became president of Turkey, he secularized the construction and transformed it into a museum in 1935, and as a museum Hagia Sophia remains until present days.

Why Hagia Sophia has this name?

In fact the structures name as we know it would only come up around 430 AD. Turks refer to it as Ayasofya and English speakers also know it by Holy Wisdom or Divine Wisdom.

Why is Hagia Sophia in Istanbul important?

Hagia Sophia is part of UNESCO Worldwide Heritage site's list. For nearly a millennium it was the largest cathedral of Christianity, and besides its religious importance the building also acted as a political and artistic hub during the Byzantine period. Even later, when Turkish conquered the city, Hagia Sophia would still remain important and would be used by Muslims. It is a place with a large history and that has provided to scholars and visitors so much insights.

Finally, its importance does not stand just in History but also in Arts. The now museum is home of beautiful mosaics and they are considered by many art historians a source of knowledge on the subject.

Should I visit Hagia Sophia in Istanbul?

Definitely. Hagia Sophia is considered the number one attraction in Istanbul and it is amongst the most important ones in Turkey. Plus its location is a walking distance from other important sites, such as the Blue Mosque and the Cistern Basilica, that you should not miss either.

When is the best time to visit Hagia Sophia?

Most people visit Hagia Sophia in the morning but many other visitors believe that the best time is before closing time, in the evening. Busiest months for visiting are between April to May and September to October. During winter (December to February) you hardly will find queues. The museum closes at 7pm during Summer hours and at 5pm the rest of the year. Spare 2h for your visit.