Hagia Sophia is not just a historical building, it’s a building with a story to tell. Hagia Sophia is often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. It’s located in Sultanahmet and it’s one of Istanbul’s most important and impressive sights.

The history of Hagia Sophia is one of the most turbulent histories of any landmark in the world. Let’s discover together the story of change of Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia

The Church (360 CE-)

In this place where the structure stands today there were actually two previous churches. The first two were built in 360 CE and 415 CE respectively and they were both demolished to the ground in troubled Byzantine times.

The Emperor Justinian assigned the Hagia Sophia church in the sixth century as a Greek Orthodox Church that would outdo the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. The building was accomplished in just five years with the work of nearly 11,000 manpower to become the largest Christian church in the world for nearly a thousand years. In the year of 1204, the Patriarch of Constantinople was displaced by the Crusaders with a Latin bishop. That’s why much of its original relics can now be found in St. Mark Basilica in Venice.

The Mosque (1453-)

Hagia Sophia

Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, the Sultan of ottoman Turks, had successfully captured Constantinople in 1453 and declared the Hagia Sophia a mosque and said his prayers there the very next Friday. As a mosque it was considered as one of the holiest islamic mosques in the world. Hagia Sophia has served as Istanbul’s principal mosque for nearly 500 years and it was taken as a model for many other mosques including Sultan Ahmet Camii, Süleymaniye Camii and the Rustem Pasha Camii.

The Museum (1935-2020)

Under the order of Atatürk the Hagia Sophia was declared to be opened as a museum and not to be prayed in anymore in 1935. This historic building is visited by more than 10,000 people per day and in 2013 the turkish ministry of tourism declared that it received over 3 million visitors.

In 2020, exactly on 17th of July an unexpected decision was made by the turkish government by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the President – Hagia Sophia Museum was converted back to a mosque after 85 years of not being allowed practicing praying in this historic place. 

Impressive Facts about Hagia Sophia

The dome 180 feet high and 100 feet wide, that’s why it was considered a revolution in the history of architecture.  After converting the building into a mosque the dome now is surrounded by four minarets which were built during the Ottoman Period. 

The Christian Mosaics of the temple, most of them are located in the upper gallery which used to be the women area during both the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. The mosaic dates back to the 9th century CE. 

The huge dome of Hagia Sophia has inspired the great architect Sinan who was aiming to better it so he finally achieved his aim by designing his masterpiece at the Selimiye Mosque which was built in Edirne whose dome is just inches bigger than Hagia Sophia’s dome.

Most Significant Features

Hagia Sophia

The beautifully detailed mosaics such as the glittering 13th century Deesis mosaic of Christ with John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary.

The general atmosphere in this beautiful building where both Islamic and Christian religions meet together through symbols displayed, such as the Central Mihrab which indicates the direction of Mecca overlooked by an apse mosaic illustrating the Virgin and Child.

The “Wishing Column”  which is covered with bronze located in the northwest of the building. It’s believed to have healing powers after Justinian leaned his head against it and his headache disappeared. When you are this point you should place your thumb in the hole and twist your wrist around as you make your own wishes.

Hagia Sophia Cat, don’t leave without saying hi to her and taking a selfie with this iconic cat. Everyone in Turkey knows this cat and loves her. She always lives in Hagia Sofia and her name is Gli 

Where is Hagia Sophia? 

The Hagia Sophia location is in the heart of Sultanahmet, close to other popular sights including the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace , Istanbul Archaeology Museum , and Blue Mosque. The distance between Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque is only two minutes walk. To reach both Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, take the tram to Sultanahmet, and walk through the park.

Entrance fees:

 Free of charge 

Visiting Hours :

According to prayer times. 

The museum is closed every Monday.

Time slot available: 09:00 Am, 10:15 Am, 11:00 Am, 14:15 Pm

Location: Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey

Dress code: 

For males they should wear a t-shirt or a Short, swimming suits or just wearing a short is not allowed. 

For females they need to be wearing a headscarf and their clothes should be covering her body and you can be provided with a headscarf and a covering gown at the entrance of the mosque. 

Shoes are to be taken off before entering and there are plastic bags can be provided at the entrance as well.