The once mightiest church of early Christianity is considered the eighth wonder of the world due to its magnificent interior design with its marble slabs and mosaics.
Its name is of particular importance: Hagia Sophia – Holy Wisdom. It experienced almost the entire history of Constantinople and became the symbol of the Golden Age of Byzantium and the city of Istanbul.
The first basilica construction with a wooden roof was completed in 360 and burnt down in 404 in an uprising. A new building under Theodosius II was inaugurated in 415 and went up in flames again during the reign of Justinian in the Nika Revolt of 532. A third and last construction of the Hagia Sophia was arranged immediately afterwards and opened on the 26th of December 537.
Until the end of the Byzantine Empire, the Hagia Sophia was used as a Greek Orthodox cathedral and was the venue for the most important ceremonies in the country. During the Latin occupation of 1204-1261, all holy relics were removed and the church became a Roman Catholic cathedral until the Ottoman conquest in 1453.
The marble slabs used came from the marble quarries of Anatolia and were transported from the entire Mediterranean region to Istanbul. For the construction of the dome special bricks and pantiles from Rhodes were brought. The columns are from Greece, Asia Minor and Italy. Until the completion of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Hagia Sophia was the largest Christian church in the world. At that time, the interior consisted of mosaics with religious main scenes, depictions of the saints and attached cross motives.
After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans, the first great prayer service was held as a Friday prayer with the conqueror Fatih Sultan Mehmet on June 3, 1453. He provided a fund to restore the building and convert it into a mosque. The change in religion is reflected in the over 500 years of Ottoman-influenced interior design as well as in the external complex. A prayer niche facing Mecca, four minarets, a cistern, a medrese and a courtyard were built. In 1934, eleven years after the founding of the Republic of Turkey, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum.
Characteristic of the original building was the light, which was reflected in the wide areas of gold mosaic. The mysterious semi-darkness of today’s Hagia Sophia is due to the increasing walling of windows and the loss of mosaics. The interior and the unique size of the dome are the impressive highlights of this structure.
Our Hagia Sophia VIP Ticket Service with 5% discount for you!
In front of the Hagia Sophia, you will be personally welcomed by our guides, who will lead you into the building by skipping the queue. You will receive the most important information about the Hagia Sophia as well as a map with the most important points of interest. Feel free to ask our experienced guides all your questions about Hagia Sophia as well as general questions about Istanbul. After your guide has escorted you inside, you are free to discover the Hagia Sophia at your own pace.
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