Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), Istanbul

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), Istanbul (must see)

Hagia Sophia is a significant Byzantine structure in Istanbul, renowned globally as one of the most impressive monuments. Initially constructed as a Christian church during the 6th century CE (532–537), it was commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. The building's architecture mirrors the region's religious history with minarets, Islamic inscriptions, and intricate Christian mosaics.

The Hagia Sophia, recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site, stands out as a significant architectural achievement. Its grand dome, reaching a height of 180 feet and a width of 100 feet, marked a pivotal moment in architectural design. This building is accented by four minarets from the Ottoman period, added after its initial construction.

The Hagia Sophia has undergone numerous changes in its role through history, initially serving as a cathedral and becoming the core of the Eastern Orthodox Church for almost a thousand years.

When the Ottomans took over Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II transformed it into a mosque, leading to the removal of many Christian features and the concealment of Christian images.

What stands out about the Hagia Sophia is its blend of Islamic and Christian symbols, showcasing a unique mix of religious histories. It houses a central mihrab pointing towards Mecca alongside a mosaic of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, reflecting its past as both a cathedral and a mosque.

The building is also home to stunning mosaics, including the notable 13th-century Deësis mosaic featuring Christ, John the Baptist, and the Virgin Mary.

An interesting part of the Hagia Sophia is the 'wishing column' located in the northwest section, believed to grant wishes or healing to those who follow a specific ritual involving their thumb and wrist. It's said that even Justinian found relief from a headache here.

Today, as the Hagia Sophia returns to being a place of worship, its history museum has moved to the nearby Ibrahim Pasha Palace, just a short walk from the mosque.

Why You Should Visit:
Unique in being both a church and a mosque, with pertinent symbols omnipresent.
The multi-domed enclosure is so mesmerizing that it's hard to take one's eyes off it!

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Istanbul. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) on Map

Sight Name: Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
Sight Location: Istanbul, Turkey (See walking tours in Istanbul)
Sight Type: Museum/Gallery
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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