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Hagia Sophia

From The Marmara Suadiye
43 Min
Exterior view of the Hagia Sophia Mosque

The Hagia Sophia Mosque (also known as Ayasofya in Turkish) stands as a remarkable example of Byzantine architecture, showcasing the beauty and grandeur of a civilization that spanned over a millennium. Situated in the heart of Istanbul's historic center, this iconic structure is recognized as one of the world's foremost cultural and historical landmarks. 

Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire commissioned the construction of Hagia Sophia in 532 as a Christian cathedral. The structure, which boasted the most interior space of any building in the world at the time, was consecrated in 537 and became an iconic symbol of the Byzantine Empire's power and influence. For over a millennium, its unique architectural style inspired numerous imitations. However, after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the 15th century, the cathedral was transformed into a mosque by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. It served as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum. In 2020, it was once again converted back into a mosque. 

For almost 1,500 years, Hagia Sophia has stood as a silent witness to some of the most significant events in human history. From the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Crusades, and the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire, it has seen it all. Even the formation of the Republic of Turkey did not diminish its importance. It serves as a reminder of the impermanence of humankind's power and the fleeting nature of existence. With its grandeur, beauty, and audacity, Hagia Sophia remains one of the most captivating attractions in Turkey. 



Hagia Sophia was a pioneering architectural marvel, being one of the earliest structures to feature a pendentive dome, a revolutionary support system that enabled the dome to rest on a rectangular base. This was just one of the many remarkable features of the structure when it was a cathedral. Notably, it held the title of the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years until Spain's Seville Cathedral was completed in the early 1500s. 


Hagia Sophia's dome was the largest in the world until the 17th century when St. Peter's Basilica in Venice was constructed. The original dome collapsed in an earthquake shortly after its initial construction and was immediately rebuilt. Over the past 1,500 years, parts of the dome have been replaced. Standing over 58 meters above the ground, the dome features a series of windows at its base 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 section that boasts of some of the most impressive artwork in the entire structure. Among its treasures are the Emperor Constantine and Empress Zoe mosaics, although the gallery is currently closed for renovation.


At the core of Hagia Sophia lies the nave, also referred to as the primary prayer hall, encircled by the majestic dome adorned with a blend of Islamic and Christian artistry. The nave is a remarkable expanse where worshippers gather during prayer times. The walls of the nave are ornamented with antique Christian mosaics while a mihrab, an alcove that points to Mecca, adorns the mosque's apse.   

How to Visit   

While functioning as a mosque at present, Hagia Sophia still welcomes visitors. It is essential to dress appropriately inside, which entails women covering their hair and wearing long skirts or pants, while men should also wear long pants. If you do not have appropriate attire, you may rent skirts and scarves. 

If you plan on visiting the Hagia Sophia, note that it is open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, with certain times reserved for prayer. You can still tour the mosque during prayer hours, but you won't be able to access the main prayer hall, or nave. Check this link for details on daily prayer schedules. 

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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