Detailed Travel Guide to Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia - A Long History and Architecture

Detailed Travel Guide to Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia means “holy wisdom” in ancient greek. This place was built upon the request of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great to move the center of the empire to Istanbul in 325. After the earthquake that occurred in 360, the building was rebuilt by Constantine and named the Great Church (Megale Ekklesia). Since the 5th century, it has been defined as Hagia Sophia.

During the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, famous architects of the period Anthemios (Tralles) and Isidore (Miletus) gained the Hagia Sophia was rebuilt by the current view. Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul in 1453, after the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and has served as a mosque for 482 years. 

Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum with the decision of the Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the Council of Ministers in 1935. The transformation of Hagia Sophia from a mosque to a museum was canceled and with the decision of the presidency, Ayasoyfa returned to the status of a mosque on 10 July 2020. If you want to know more about Hagia Sophia facts and history, there is a history section down below.


Haghia Sophia History

Long History of Hagia Sophia 

Hagia Sophia from initial construction to the end of era

The history of Hagia Sophia begins before its completed version is the current Hagia Sophia. The church version was built on an old temple, but unfortunately, no remains have survived from this structure. Before Hagia Sophia was built, there were two different churches built in the same place. The first of these is the Hagia Sophia church, also known as Saint Sophia Cathedral or the Great Church or Megale Eklesia, built-in 360 by Constantinus, the son of Constantine the Great. The opening of the Hagia Sophia church was held on February 15, 360 by Constantius II. During the reign of Emperor Arkadius, on 20 June 404, it was burned and destroyed due to the rising caused by the conflict. 

Theodosius II, who ascended the throne after Arkadios, built a new church to replace this destroyed church. Its opening took place in his time, on 10 October 415. This second church remained standing until 532. This structure was burned down again during the Nika Uprising on 13-14 January 532.

A few days after the destruction of the second Hagia Sophia, the emperor Justinian decided to build a completely different church from the previous one. Justinian assigned the physicist Isidoros of Miletus and the mathematician Anthemius of Tralles as architects to get this work done. In the construction of the building, columns brought from the Sun Temple in Egypt, the Baalbek Temple in Lebanon, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, and many other temples were used. The construction work started on 23 December 532 and it was completed on 27 December 537. After its construction, there were cracks in certain places due to earthquakes. In the earthquake of 7 May 558, the main dome completely collapsed. The emperor immediately ordered the restoration work to begin and Isidorus, the young nephew of Isidoros of Miletus, undertook this work. The restoration work was completed in 562.

Among the later destructions, Hagia Sophia was subjected to a fire in 859. Then, in 869, an earthquake occurred and one of the half-domes fell. Finally, after the 989 earthquakes that damaged the main dome, emperor II. Basil had the dome repaired by the architect Trdat. Trdat repaired part of the dome and the church was reopened to the public in 994 after 6 years of restoration work. During the Fourth Crusade, the Crusaders captured Istanbul and plundered Hagia Sophia. Many relics and valuables were stolen from the church. In this period, called the Latin Invasion, Hagia Sophia was transformed into a cathedral and it was subject to the Roman Catholic church. 

When Hagia Sophia was taken under the control of the Byzantines again, it was in a state of ruin and was about to collapse in 1261. New cracks appeared in the 1344 earthquake, and various parts of the building collapsed on 19 May 1346, and the church was closed for almost 10 years after this event until restoration began.

Conquest of Constantinapole

After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the Hagia Sophia Church was converted into a mosque. Fatih Sultan Mehmed knew Hagia Sophia’s value, so he ordered the church to be cleaned immediately and converted into a mosque, but did not change its name. Its first minaret was built in his time. This minaret was made of brick in order to build the minaret quickly. One of the minarets is added by Sultan Bayezid II. In the 16th century, he brought two giant lamps from Hungary(conquered by Suleiman the Magnificent) to Hagia Sophia Mosque, which are located on both sides of the altar today. The building, which showed signs of fatigue during the Selim II period, was reinforced with external retaining structures added by the Ottoman chief architect Mimar Sinan, one of the world’s first earthquake engineers. Several sultans’ tombs were also added over time. Between 1847 and 1849, many innovations were added and restored by two brothers, Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati. After that, giant round paintings with important names in calligraphy were hung on the columns. Minarets were brought to the same heights. When this restoration work was completed, the Hagia Sophia Mosque was reopened to the public with a ceremony on 13 July 1849. Hagia Sophia was closed again to the public between 1930 and 1935 due to restoration works, a few more works were carried out such as encircling the dome with an iron belt and uncovering and cleaning the mosaics on the order of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk. 

Hagia Sophia becomes Ayasofya

During the restoration Hagia Sophia, there were some ideas about converting it to the church, which was the purpose of construction, due to the new Republic of Turkey’s principle of secularism. But at the time because of the small number of Christians living in the region, it was turned into a museum by the decision of the council of ministers. Hagia Sophia Museum was opened to visit on 1 February 1935. Centuries later, with the removal of the carpets on the floor, its own flooring emerged, and with the removal of the plaster, the mosaics were brought to light again. It was converted into a mosque again on 10 July 2020.

Haghia Sophia Architecture

Architecture of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is a building that fascinates people with its magnificent architecture. Hagia Sophia architecture is very complex. The place has 1 middle nave, 2 side naves, and 2 narthexes. The doors of the building are made of oak wood. The dimensions of Hagia Sophia are 100 × 70 m. It has an internal area of about 7500 m². It has a two-story structure. The dome of Hagia Sophia is 55.6 meters above the ground. This dome consists of 40 ribs and 40 huge windows. There are a total of 107 columns, 40 of which are on the ground floor and 67 on the upper floor. The tallest of the pillars is about 20 meters. The pillars have a radius of 1.5 meters and an estimated weight of 70 tons.

Istanbul Skyline

Where is Hagia Sophia?  

One of the most visited locations in Turkey, was home to many empires and has witnessed the creation of a history for centuries, Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet, a district of Fatih, which covers the entire region where the city of Istanbul was founded and developed.


How to get there

There are many ways to go to Hagia Sophia Istanbul. If you like the tram, you should go to Gulhane or Sultanahmet stops. If you are coming from the Anatolian side, you can take the ferry from Kadıkoy or Uskudar to Eminonu and transfer to the tram line from here. In addition, it is possible to reach Eminonu from every point of Istanbul with buses operating in the city. After reaching Eminonu, you can walk towards Sultanahmet if you want, or you can continue on your way by tram. Culture and art enthusiasts who come from other cities and want to visit Hagia Sophia should check the Istanbul flights. Turkish Airlines hosts their hub in the new Istanbul Airport which comes with all the perks when traveling to Turkey.

Leave a Comment