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Hagia Sophia

From The Marmara Sisli
20 Min
2 hr
Outside view of the Hagia Sophia Mosque

The Hagia Sophia Mosque (known as Ayasofya in Turkish) is a magnificent example of Byzantine architecture that showcases the best of its kind. Situated in Istanbul's historic center, this iconic monument stands as a testament to over a thousand years of human civilization and culture, making it one of the most significant cultural and historical sites in the world. 

In 532, Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire commissioned the construction of a Christian cathedral, now known as the Hagia Sophia Mosque. The building's consecration in 537 marked a historic moment, as it had the largest interior space of any building in the world. Its architectural style set a precedent for over a millennium, serving as a symbol of the height of the Byzantine Empire. After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in the 15th century, the cathedral was converted into a mosque by Mehmed the Conqueror. It later became a museum in 1935, but in 2020, it was converted back into a mosque. 

Hagia Sophia has stood witness to almost 1,500 years of human history, surviving through the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades, the ascent and decline of the Ottoman Empire, the birth of the Republic of Turkey, and numerous other events. This remarkable structure is a testament to humanity's impressive capabilities but also its fleeting nature. Magnificent, awe-inspiring, and stunning, the Hagia Sophia Mosque is an incredible destination in Turkey that captivates visitors from all over the world. 

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Hagia Sophia was a pioneering structure in the use of a pendentive dome, an architectural support system that allowed the dome to be placed on a rectangular structure. This was just one of the many features that made the cathedral a marvel of its time; it was also the largest cathedral in the world until the completion of Spain's Seville Cathedral in the early 1500s. 


Hagia Sophia's dome, which was reconstructed after the original collapsed during an earthquake soon after its initial construction, was the largest in the world until the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Venice in the 17th century. Over the intervening 1,500 years, parts of the dome have been replaced. The height of the dome is over 58 meters, and its base is lined with windows that allow light to filter through the entire space. 

Upper Gallery 

Initially reserved for the Byzantine Empresses, the Upper Gallery at Hagia Sophia is a horseshoe-shaped area showcasing some of the most impressive artwork in the entire structure. One of its most famous features are the mosaics of Emperor Constantine and Empress Zoe, though the gallery is currently closed for renovations. 


The centerpiece of Hagia Sophia is referred to as the nave, also known as the main prayer hall. This magnificent space is enclosed by a soaring dome and adorned with a blend of Christian and Islamic design. The nave is used for worship during prayer times and boasts early Christian mosaics along its walls. However, the mosque's apse is marked by a mihrab, a niche indicating the direction of Mecca. 

How to Visit   

While functioning as a mosque, Hagia Sophia welcomes visitors who must dress appropriately. Female visitors are required to cover their hair and wear long pants or skirts, while male visitors should wear long pants. In case you do not have the appropriate clothing, you can rent skirts and scarves. 

If you plan on touring the magnificent Hagia Sophia, keep in mind that it is open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, but it may have limited access during prayer hours. You may be able to visit while worship is in session, but the nave will be off-limits. Check this link for more information on daily prayer times. 

Discover the Free Things to Do in Istanbul for an Unforgettable Experience! If you're in search of exciting adventures and remarkable sights, look no further. Istanbul offers a plethora of captivating activities that will leave you in awe. Explore the vibrant streets, indulge in delicious cuisine, and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of this enchanting city. Don't miss out on the best things to do in Istanbul!

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