Agia Sophia - Ayasofya, Istanbul

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  • Agia Sophia - Ayasofya
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    The Hagia Sophia
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    The Hagia Sophia
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  • Donna_in_India's Profile Photo

    Stunning Mosaics and Fascinating Details

    by Donna_in_India Updated Mar 16, 2014

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    Hagia Sophia/Ayasofya, Istanbul
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    We left the Blue Mosque and walked through the beautiful gardens to Hagia Sophia/Aya Sofya. Before entering through the Imperial Gate, you come upon the Byzantine Frieze of sheep from AD 415 (stop and take a peek!). And once through the doors, you are struck by the sheer enormity of the mosque. Then you realize how cold(!) and dark it is inside. During our visit, Hagia Sophia was in various states of disrepair but fortunately they were doing renovations. Unfortunately that meant there was alot of scaffolding making some views difficult.

    The Haghia Sophia (“church of the holy wisdom”) is over 1400 years old. The original church was built over two earlier churches for Emperor Justinian. It was inaugurated in 537 and stood as the largest and most grand place of worship until St. Peter's was completed in the 17th century. The original architecture is Byzantine - perhaps the greatest example of it - but since it was converted to a Mosque by the Ottomans in the 15th century, it is of that architecture as well. (It was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Mehmet the Conquerer in 1453.) The minarets, tombs, and fountains are all Ottoman architecture. As I walked around, beautiful as it was, I thought how odd it was to be, all at once, a church and a mosque.

    At the time of construction of the original dome (over the nave), nothing like it had been attempted. New architectural rules were made up as building went along, but the dome collapsed during an earthquake 2 years after the church was completed. It was repaired and flying buttresses - arched exterior supports - were used to support the new dome which is 184 feet - 18 stories(!) - high and 100 feet across. Today, if you look up at the dome, you will see thousands of gold tiles sparkling in the light of its 40 windows. It is a spectacular sight.

    Along with the dome, there were so many highlights here. My favorites include the beautiful frescoes and mosaics - look for the mosaic of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus with archangels Michael and Gabriel. This was where the altar once stood. What is amazing about the mosaics is that in the 16th century Suleyman the Magnificent ordered them plastered over since Islam prohibits portrayals of human figures in a place of worship. Fortunately they were rediscovered in 1936 when Ataturk made the Hagia Sophia a museum.

    My other favorites included the mihrab (an ornate niche in the wall that marks the direction of Mecca), sultan's loge (provided the sultan with a screened-off balcony where he could pray), muezzin's mahfili (muezzin leads the call to prayer), the mimbar (a lofty pulpit from where the imam - head of the mosque - delivers his Friday khutba -sermon), and the calligraphic roundels. It was great fun to discover all the treasures - both small and large - here.

    Before leaving stop at the marble and brass Scared Column (wish column). "It's thought that the column weeps water that can work miracles, and over the centuries believers have worn a hole as they caress the column to come in contact with the miraculous moisture. It's also believed that if you place your thumb in the hole and turn your hand 360 degrees, any wish you make while doing so will come true."

    Hagia Sophia was definitely one of the highlights of Istanbul for me!

    Hagia Sophia is opposite the Blue Mosque and within walking distance of Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern.

    Allow at least a couple of hours to visit. Be respectful and quiet.

    Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Last entrance is at 4:30.
    Upper Gallery closes at 4:45 p.m.
    Closed on Mondays.

    Entrance fee is 20 TL. Sign posted says only Turkish currency is accepted.

    I highly recommend having a good guide book or hiring a guide. Guides are available at the entrance.

    **Tip: when you're in the upper gallery be sure to look at the windows. You will get some very interesting (and photogenic views!).

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  • xaver's Profile Photo

    One of the most incredible buildings on earth

    by xaver Written Jan 9, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

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    The history of this monument is interesting and complex. It was built the first time in honour of the Holy Wisdom (in greek Hagia Sophia and in turkish Aya Sofya) by emperor Costantino and then it was enlarged by Costanzo II. It was totally destryed during the fire of 404. Today nothing is left of that first church.
    Giustiniano wanted it to be rebuilt, bigger than before. 10 thousends workers built it again in 5 years and half.
    20 years later some quakes caused the partial collapsing of the dome, that was rebuilt but smaller than before.
    In 1453 Costantinopoli was conquired by the Ottomans and its name was changed into Istanbul, Hagia Sophia became a Mosque.
    In 1935 the first turkish president of the Republic of Turkey, Ataturk, transformed Hagia Sophia in a museum.
    Hagia Sophia Museum is available everyday for visiting except Mondays. Visiting hours of winter schedule are 9-17 Visiting hours of summer schedule are 0919
    Ticket price i s 20TL.

    http://www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/index1.html

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  • magor65's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia - the symbol of Bysantium

    by magor65 Written Jan 4, 2014
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    Hagia Sophia has been standing on its site since 537 against all odds. Disasters struck, empires changed, there ware wars, conflicts and rebellions, but the temple survived them all. Four minarets at the corners of the building remind us that a thousand years after its consecration, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque for five long centuries. Now it's a museum and one of the must-see attractions of Istanbul.
    Built at the times of Emperor Justinian I, it took less than six years to be completed ( it is a short time, compared to f.e. a hundred years needed to construct Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.) This rush may have been a cause of problems, especially with a domed roof that almost collapsed at the time of construction. Actually, it did collapse about two decades later. Luckily, then it was restored using lighter materials and a different technique. It was done so well that it has lasted till present days.
    Beneath the dome are 40 windows and the sun coming through them seems "to dissolve the solidity of the walls and create an ambience of ineffable mystery". When Hagia Sophia was completed Justinian is believed to have said: "Solomon, I have outdone thee".
    The decorations of the temple at the time of its construction must have been very simple, such as the shapes of the cross. Over the time mosaics and images of Christ and imperial family were added. In the 8th and 9th centuries some of them were destroyed during iconoclasm. After that period decorating the church with figural mosaics was resumed. One of the most famous - that presenting Virgin Mary with the child - is placed in the apse of the church and comes from 867.

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  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo

    Aya Sophia

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Jan 3, 2014

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    Haga Sophia
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    Massive and Beautiful Byzantine Church, later converted into a Mosque and now a museum. This is one of Istanbul's most awesome sights. The first church on the site was built by the Roman emporer Constantine in around 346, the current structure was built by Justinian in 532. It was converted to a Mosque after the ottomans took over. Work is currently underway to reveal the original Roman mosaics.

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  • solopes's Profile Photo

    Little Ayasofia's yard

    by solopes Updated Dec 26, 2013
    Istanbul - Turkey
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    Adjacent to the mosque, the yard with the usual fountain deserves a visit. Well gardened, it is a succession of small shops with all kind of arts and crafts. Maybe too pricey to shop, it is very interesting to browse.

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    Little Ayasofia

    by solopes Updated Dec 26, 2013
    Istanbul - Turkey
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    Formerly the christian church of Saints Sergius and Bachus, this orthodox church was the model of Hagia Sofia, sharing the same treatment - a conversion to a mosque.

    Some details of the original decoration are still present, and though smaller than the big highlight of Istanbul, the combination of all the elements and the dominant white, give this church a surprising beauty and harmony.

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  • ainsleigh's Profile Photo

    Breathtaking Hagia Sophia

    by ainsleigh Updated Aug 17, 2013

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    The Hagia Sophia
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    The Hagia Sophia captivates like a crown jewel in Istanbul's skyline, and the moment I stepped inside I lost my breath. Parts of the current Hagia Sophia structure were constructed in the 6th century, initially as an Orthodox basilica. The history of centuries and cultures is evident in the various stages of transition over the years: in the 9th and 10th centuries, the Byzantines installed ornate gold Christian iconographic mosaics, and in the 15th century the Ottomans converted it into a mosque and the minarets and fountains were added. In 1935 it was converted into a museum. The domes are truly amazing; I spent time taking them in as a whole, then really looking at each piece to appreciate the artistry in the details. Over a thousand years of travelers and worshipers are not wrong: this is one of the world's unmissable places to see.

    Now for some boring stuff: It's closed on Mondays so plan accordingly. Admission we remembered as being expensive but not unreasonable. You can take photos and videos. We visited in January so there was no lineup or oppressive crowds, but they were doing renovations to some very small parts. All signage is in English and the audioguide was interesting and worth the price.

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia)

    by Dabs Written Jul 18, 2013

    Unlike the Blue Mosque, this is not a functioning mosque and admission is charged to enter. The building started it's life as a church, was converted to a mosque under ________ and finally turned into a museum by _______.

    There was a fairly significant line the 2nd day we walked past and the day we went I'd guess the line to buy tickets was 20 minutes or so. We had purchased a Museum Pass and we walked right in.

    Currently the building has some renovations going on but you can still access most of the building including the upper level.

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  • pieter_jan_v's Profile Photo

    Aya Sofya (Getting in)

    by pieter_jan_v Updated Jul 15, 2013
    Aya Sofya - Ticket prices and more
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    After surviving the queue at the entrance it's time to buy a ticket of 20 TL.

    Directly after the ticket counter is a small café with terrace to prepare yourself for the visit.

    You enter the Aya Sofya through it's main gates to arrive in the front hall. The main area is forwards; to the left are the stairs to the gallery.

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  • TrendsetterME's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya, Istanbul, TR

    by TrendsetterME Updated Jun 24, 2013

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    Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya, Istanbul, TR
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    I strongly suggest u to visit "Hagia Sophia", its a mixture of history, archeology, religions and so on .. Perfect sights to see outside and inside ...

    A large number of mosaics were uncovered in the 1930s by a team from the Byzantine Institute of America led by Thomas Whittemore. The team chose to let a number of simple cross images remain covered by plaster, but uncovered all major mosaics found.

    Because of its long history as both a church and a mosque, a particular challenge arises in the restoration process. The Christian iconographic mosaics are being gradually uncovered. However, in order to do so, important, historic Islamic art would have to be destroyed. Restorers have attempted to maintain a balance between both Christian and Islamic cultures. In particular, much controversy rests upon whether the Islamic calligraphy on the dome of the cathedral should be removed, in order to permit the underlying Pantocrator mosaic of Christ as Master of the World, to be exhibited.

    Here on my "Travelogue" you can see more photos of this great "Hagia Sophia" .. :
    Hagia Sophia Travelogue

    As its a VERY popular sight to see, there are "VERY LONG" queues mostly to enter, especially in hot summer days its killing, so I advise to pre-buy ticket or join a daily tour including also Hagia Sophia sothat you skip the waiting procedure ...

    Enjoy ... :)

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  • ValbyDK's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia

    by ValbyDK Written Jun 9, 2013

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    Hagia Sophia (The Church of the Holy Wisdom) is an amazing building with an amazing history... There has been a religious building on the spot since year 360, and the present building is the third one. It was constructed between 532 and 537 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and served as a Christian cathedral for almost 1,000 years. But in 1453, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) was conquered by the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed II, and Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque. Bells, altar, mosaics etc. were removed and Islamic features - such as four minarets - were added. Hagia Sophia remained a mosque until 1935 when it was converted into a museum.

    Outstanding landmark in Istanbul, said to be the eighth wonder of the world... Its inside is rich of mosaics, marble pillars, a huge dome (55 meters high), and beautiful Christian and Islamic art... This is a must-see in Istanbul.

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  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia

    by HORSCHECK Written Apr 6, 2013

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    The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) was erected in Byzantine style between 532 and 537 AD on behalf of Justinian I, the Byzantine Empereor. Until the middle of the 15th century the building was used as an Eastern Orthodox Church. The only exception was during the Latin occupation from 1204 until 1261 when it was a Roman Catholic Church.

    After the Ottoman conquest in 1451, Hagia Sophia was converted into the city's first imperial mosque. Minarets and other Islamic elements were added to the edifice.

    On the order of the first Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Hagia Sophia was transformed into a museum.

    In December 2012 the entrance fee to the museum was 25 TRY. Besides the impressive architecture I especially liked the mixture of Christian and Islamic elements in the museum.

    Directions:
    The Hagia Sophia is located on top of the small hill in the touristy Sultanahmet district. While the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) can be found on the southern side of the Sultan Ahmed Square, the Hagia Sophia stands on its northern side.

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  • mikey_e's Profile Photo

    Interior Nartex

    by mikey_e Written Dec 5, 2012
    Interior Narlex
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    The interior narlex is the ante-chamber to the main prayer room. It contains a mosaic (that I, unfortunately, appear to have failed to take a picture of) that includes an unknown emporer as well as Mary and the Archangel Gabriel. The Imperial Gate, is the middle of nine doors in the interior narlex that leads into the main prayer room. It was reserved exclusively for the Emperor during the Byzantine era.

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    The Grounds

    by mikey_e Written Dec 5, 2012
    The ritual fountain
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    While the grounds of Hagia Sofia are not nearly as impressive as the building or its interior, they do include some interesting structures that merit at least a bit of the visitor’s time. Apart from the various bits of ruins (likely the product of successive earthquakes), the grounds include two türbe, or Ottoman mausoleums (one for Selim II and one for Murat III), a fountain for ghusl or ritual cleansing before prayer, (18th century), a medrese or religious school, a library and a soup kitchen or imaret. All of these structures point to the continued importance of Hagia Sophia for the Ottomans, even after the construction of Sultan Ahmed Mosque across from it. As well, given that the structures were all built within a specific time period, their architectural styles provide an interesting contrast to the various layers of style within the cathedral/mosque.

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    The Mosaics

    by mikey_e Written Dec 5, 2012
    Upper Gallery mosaic
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    It is somewhat miraculous that mosaics of any form survived to this day inside Hagia Sophia. None of the structure’s various patrons and owners, apart from the 20th century Republican museum curators, have been particularly kind to them. At first they faced iconoclasm, the intellectual movement in the latter half of the first millennium CE that preached against Christian imagery; then the sacking of the cathedral by Latin Crusaders in the 13th century; then covering with plaster by the Muslim Ottoman rulers; and finally being coated with paint by well-intentioned but ill-advised Italian and Swiss restorers in the 19th century. While some mosaics include only floral or vegetal patterns and thus would have been acceptable to Muslim decorators, most of the impressive pieces are of Christian iconography and were necessarily covered in the process of conversion from a church to a mosque. They often include hammered gold and demonstrate a high level of craftsmanship in both the complexity of the Biblical scenes portrayed and the details used, including the Greek inscriptions. Today most of them can easily be seen, although there are some tensions regarding the destruction of later Islamic works in order to recover the earlier Christian ones. Their vibrant colours and crisp outlines are all thanks to the tireless work of an American Byzantine research group that, in the 1930s, sought to painstakingly restore the hidden artwork after the structure’s conversion to a museum.

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