Hagia Sophia, also known as the Church of the Holy Wisdom or the Church of the Divine Wisdom, is an ancient Byzantine church in Istanbul and one of the world’s great greatest architectural works, as well as accepted as the 8th wonder of the world. Situated along the Sultanahmet Square, which is one of the top tourist zones of the city, as well as within 2 minutes walking distance from the famous Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia is one of the most indispensable stops of the Historical Peninsula tours.
Facts about Hagia Sophia
– “Hagia Sophia” means “Holly Wisdom” in Greek.
– Hagia Sophia was first built as a church in 325, and than rebuilt in 537. Being converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet after Istanbul’s conquest in 1453, it was than converted to a museum in 1935 and finally in 2020 it was declared as a mosque.
– Hagia Sophia is at the top of the must-see places in Istanbul due to its historical background and architectural features. Especially its impressive 31-meter dome have made this holy place the 8th Wonder of the World.
– No larger and more flamboyant church could be built than Hagia Sophia for 1000 years. In addition, Hagia Sophia was also used as a ceremonial place where the emperors were crowned as the center of the Orthodox patriarch.
History of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was constructed as a Christian church in the sixth century CE (532–537) under the auspices of Byzantine emperor Justinian I. It was a church, mosque, a museum, and then a mosque again over the years. The minarets and inscriptions of Islam and the beautiful mosaics of Christianity illustrate the theological transitions that have occurred in the region throughout the years.
It is an actual work of genius in Byzantine architecture. Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus designed the original structure, finished in fewer than six years (532–537 CE) during Justinian I’s reign. It combined a longitudinal basilica with a centralized structure entirely unique, with a massive central dome (rebuilt 563) supported on pendentives and semi-domes on either side. It is nearly square in plan.
Hagia Sophia, which started its journey in history as a church, was called the “Great Church” in its early days. The stucture was gradually destroyed over time due to popular uprisings, invasions, fires, earthquakes, and was built by the rulers of the period, served as a church under the name of “Holy Wisdom” until 1453, although it was closed to worship from time to time due to renovations.
With the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, its historical church duty ended and converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet.
In 1900s, 12 years after the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk turned Hagia Sophia into a museum. And finally in 2020 it was declared and serving as a mosque.
The Hagia Sophia is regarded as one of the world’s most magnificent structures. Three aisles are divided by columns, with galleries above and massive marble piers rising up to support the dome. The walls above the galleries and the base of the dome are perforated with windows, the light from which conceals the supports and gives the sense that the canopy floats on air.
In consequence, the effect of Hagia Sophia on the eye defines its long-term significance and beauty, be careful don’t get swept away. The building material’s grandeur, symbolism, and transcendence illustrate what Justinian declared when it was originally finished in 537: “O, Solomon, I have excelled thee!”
The building’s exquisite mosaics are regarded by art historians as the primary source of information on the level of mosaic art towards the end of the Enigmatic Dispute in the 8th and 9th centuries.
The interior decorating of Hagia Sophia was very creative. The inside is lined with massive marble slabs that appear to have been picked and constructed to resemble running water. The central dome is supported by two semi-domes and two arched openings and floats atop a ring of windows. This results in a massive, uninterrupted nave. The pendentives were adorned with massive mosaics depicting six-winged angels.
Hagia Sophia retains its spiritual status because of what it evokes, what it represents, and its impressions on visitors. The impression of a structure on the spectator is determined by the original builders’ idea of it as a blend of religion and mathematics.
Hagia Sophia has the largest structure with its elliptical domed structure with an interior area of approximately 7500 square meters. The columns, the longest of which is 20 meters high and weighing close to 70 tons, were brought from different parts of Anatolia and used in the construction.
The building has a distinctive feature as it has a very old history of 15 centuries. Apart from its gigantic exterior and interior space, the building has excellent features with its mosaics inside. Apse mosaic, dome angel depictions, Deisis composition, Kommenos mosaic, the Leon Mosaic are must see ones.
Visiting Hagia Sophia Tips
– There is no entrance fee for Hagia Sophia. For those who would like guided tours, you can get one around € 20-30. Just make sure the guides be authorized and have their badges.
– Both Muslims and non-Muslims can visit Hagia Sophia. It is open every day and every time.
– We recommend you visit Hagia Sophia before noon (maybe early in the morning before the crowds begin to form) to catch the best light, as well as not to stay in the daily prayers.
– You should respect to daily prayers, not make noise, and remove your shoes before stepping the carpets. Also women should wear a head covering, and you can find head scarves at the entrance for free.
– You can take photos, however you should respect the people praying.
– You should be aware with pickpockets and keep your wallet safe. This is common in all world’s top tourist destinations. Also stay away from any people pretending to be a guide.
Hours and Fees
Hagia Sophia is open every day and every hour.
Entrance to Hagia Sophia is FREE of charge. Guided tours are available for around € 20-30.
Top-Rated Hagia Sophia Guided Tours
You can feel free to book one of these top selling guided tours for Hagia Sophia. They all have excellent traveler ratings. If you change your mind, you can also make free cancellation with a FULL REFUND up to 24 hours in advance.
Getting to Hagia Sophia Tips
Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet neighborhood, which belongs to Fatih district. See on google map.
For those coming from Taksim, Galata or Besiktas areas, can take the Kabatas-Bagcilar T1 tram line passing through Kabatas, Karakoy, and get off at Sultanahmet stop.
For those on the Asian side of Istanbul, can take the ferry to Eminonu or take the Marmaray line from Uskudar and get off at the Sirkeci stop. And than you can take the Kabatas-Bagcilar tram line passing through Eminönü and Sirkeci stops, and get off at Sultanahmet stop.
Address: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydani No:1, 34122 Fatih, Istanbul
Tel:+90 212 522 17 50