ONCE A CHURCH, LATER A MOSQUE, AND THEN A MUSEUM
MASTERPIECE OF THE HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE
Hagia Sophia with its innovative architecture, rich history, religious significance and extraordinary characteristics has been fighting against time for centuries, is the largest Eastern Roman Church in Istanbul. Constructed three times in the same location, it is the world’s oldest and fastest-completed cathedral. With its breathtaking domes that look like hanging in the air, monolithic marble columns and unparalleled mosaics, is one of the wonders of world’s architecture history.
IT CONTINUED TO EXIST AS A MOSQUE DURING THE OTTOMAN PERIOD
Today’s Hagia Sophia is the third building constructed in the same place with a different architectural understanding than its predecessors. By the order of Emperor Justinianos, it was built by Anthemios from Tralles (Aydin) and Isidoros from Miletos (Balat). The construction started in 532 and was completed in a period of five years and opened for worship in 537 with great ceremony. When Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror conquered the city, he converted it into his imperial mosque.
It continued its existence with the addition of Ottoman architectural elements and turned into a museum in 1935. Known for its Imperial Gate, Beautiful Gate (Splendid Door) and Marble Gate, Hagia Sophia has 104 columns, some of which are brought from ancient cities. The “Omphalion” section where the emperors were crowned stands out with marble workmanship like these pillars.
MOSAICS, SERMON CHAIRS: WELL WORTH SEEING!
Hagia Sophia fascinates people by not only with its awe-inspiring architectural design, but also by its gold-plated, silver-plated, glass, terracotta and colored stone mosaics, and the original ceiling mosaics of the 6th century with their floral and geometric motifs. The mosaics with figures following the icon ban in the 8th century especially Mother Mary depicted with child Jesus in her arms, the Archangel Gabriel and the Archangel Michael and Deisis stage mosaics must be seen. Sultan Abdulmecid’s Mosaic tughra was built between 1847 and 1849 during the restoration by the Fossati brothers.
Eight large round plates that were added during the Ottoman period are the work of famous calligrapher Kadıasker Mustafa Izzet during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid. Two solid marble cubes in the side aisles, which can receive an average of 1250 liters of liquid, were brought from the ancient city of Bergama during the reign of Sultan Murad III.
WHILE YOU ARE HERE
The Hagia Sophia Museum is famous for its exterior as well as its interior. The mausoleums of Ottoman Sultans outside the building are among the first to visit. There are tombs of princes and mausoleums of Sultan Selim II, Sultan Murad III, Sultan Mehmed III, Sultan Mustafa I, and Sultan Ibrahim whose reigns followed one another. The four minarets of Hagia Sophia, known to be built by Mimar Sinan, the fountain of Sibyan (elementary) school, the clock room, the fountains, buttresses, the treasury building and the soup kitchen are also increasing the magnificence of the structure.