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Historical facts about Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Historical facts about Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia is one of the most important tourist attractions in Istanbul that has magnificent architecture, history and art.

With 3-3.5 million visitors annually, this makes it at the top of the list for the international tourists.

It served as a church for Christians for 1,000 years and for 500 years as a mosque for Muslims, and it became a mosque again in 2020.

This means that Hagia Sophia has been a place of worship for Christians and Muslim believers for more than 1500 years and has honored both religions with its glory.

After the suppression of the revolt, Emperor Justinian decided to build a new church that would be the center of Christianity in the world.

He invited two engineers, Anthemius of Tralles and İsidore of Miletos, to design the church of his dreams.

Statistics also show that there are another 10,000 people who worked on the construction of Hagia Sophia.

At that time, there were many churches with huge domes in western Rome and the European Christian world, but Hagia Sophia was the first in the east and the largest of all the churches in the world.

It remained that way until the establishment of St. Paul’s Church in London, and Rome, and the Duomo in Milan.

Historical facts about Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
Historical facts about Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

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Interesting secrets you should know about Hagia Sophia

Interesting secrets you should know about Hagia Sophia
Interesting secrets you should know about Hagia Sophia

It was destroyed and rebuilt more than 8 times

After its destruction in 404, it was rebuilt as the Church of Theodosius II in 415. Unfortunately, that church also burned down in a fire in 532. 

After that, the building was destroyed and rebuilt because of multiple earthquakes. Hagia Sophia is actually built on a fault line, making it more prone to earthquakes. 

Also, many natural disasters and earthquakes in 553, 557, 558, 869, 989 and 1344 led to severe damage to the building.

It was a Roman Catholic church and cathedral before it became a mosque

It was a Roman Catholic church and cathedral before it became a mosque
It was a Roman Catholic church and cathedral before it became a mosque

The original building was a church, but it was converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral while Constantinople was occupied by the Crusaders during the Fourth Crusade, and it was converted again into an Eastern Orthodox church in 1261.

It was converted into a mosque in the fifteenth century

After the Ottoman invasion in 1481, Sultan Mehmed II announced that the building would be converted from a church to a mosque.

This conversion occurred through the centuries starting with minarets, and building madrasas “religious schools” within the building.

In 1847, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid, they added the iconic giant circular discs, which you can still see to this day.

The discs are engraved with the names of God, Muhammad -Peace be upon him-, the first four caliphs, and two of the Prophet’s grandsons Hassan and Hussein.

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Important tips when visiting Hagia Sophia Mosque

Important tips when visiting Hagia Sophia Mosque
Important tips when visiting Hagia Sophia Mosque

If you are a first-time visitor to Hagia Sophia, the following tips may be useful to you:

  • Its doors remain open to visitors and locals of all backgrounds and faiths to keep visiting the mosque.
  • Because it is a mosque, there is no longer an entry fee, but there is an option to donate if you are interested.
  • Although you are allowed to visit during prayer times, we advise you to try to find a time when it is not a prayer time, as you will be able to move around more freely.
  • As in every mosque, take off your shoes before entering and wear long trousers, while for women, shoulders and head must be covered and you can find a free hijab inside the mosque if you do not wear a one.
  • It is allowed to take some photos and videos inside the mosque.

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How to reach Hagia Sophia in Istanbul?

How to reach Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
How to reach Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

You must first come to Sultanahmet, which is the heart of the old city of Istanbul, and the popular name of the old city of Istanbul is “Fatih”, so you will see the historical peninsula of Istanbul with the name of “Fatih” on maps.

You can come to Sultanahmet area in Fatih by tram, it is very centrally located and easily accessible from Taksim, Karakoy, Galata, Sirkeci or Eminonu and this is the location where the popular hotels are located.

The most convenient way of public transportation in Istanbul to go to Hagia Sophia is the tram, and if you leave the tram at Sultanahmet Tram Station, you can easily walk to Hagia Sophia which is only a five-minute walk from there.

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