Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya, Istanbul

4.5 out of 5 stars 297 Reviews

Ayasofya Meydan?, Sultanahmet +90 212 522 1750

Been here? Rate It!

hide
  • Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya
    by smirnofforiginal
  • The Hagia Sophia
    The Hagia Sophia
    by ainsleigh
  • The Hagia Sophia
    The Hagia Sophia
    by ainsleigh
  • solopes's Profile Photo

    Religious fighting

    by solopes Updated Oct 28, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    What a lot of history lives in those walls!

    Most of the best and worst of human story is documented in this church. Several times built and destroyed, the final building, expected to be (and maybe it was) the biggest and most beautiful church in the world, was built in the 6th century.

    But story kept flowing over it. Eight centuries later, the Ottomans conquered the town, and transformed it in a muslim mosque.

    In 1935 Ataturk, at last, transformed it in a cultural museum. Now, with its christian decorations emerging from the Muslim coverings, it becomes a monument to tolerance and religious coexistence. Impossible to miss...

    Istanbul - Turkey Istanbul - Turkey
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • IreneMcKay's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 27, 2014

    I remember my first visit to this building. I was visiting my boyfriend, later husband, and he was at work, so I went sightseeing on my own. The area around Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya as the Turks call it, is very hassley, because it is filled with carpet salesmen who keep trying to drag you off to their shops. One of these salesmen attached himself to me and I could not get rid of him. Part of the reason for going inside Hagia Sophia was simply to get away from him and even then he kept calling to me: "I'll wait for you just outside. Don't worry, I'll wait for you. " I spent much of my visit working out how to get out of the building without encountering him again.

    Hagia Sophia means Church of the Divine Wisdom. It is located in the Sultan Ahmet area of Istanbul between Topkapi Palace and Sultan Ahmet Mosque.

    Hagia Sophia was built in the year 537. From that date until 1453, it was mainly used as the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral and as the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The only exception to this was between 1204 and 1261 during the fourth crusade when the cathedral was ransacked and converted into a Catholic Church by Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice. Many of the cathedral's relics were stolen and dispersed to churches in other parts of Europe at this time. After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453 Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and remained a mosque until 1931. In 1935 it was secularized and opened as a museum. Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

    Hagia Sophia was originally built as a church between 532 and 537 during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It was located on the site of two earlier Christian churches. It was designed by two Greek scientists. One of these was Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and the other was Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician. The building is an impressive piece of engineering with its massive dome. This dome has, however, collapsed several times during major earthquakes and has frequently had to be rebuilt. The original church contained a collection of important holy relics and a 15 metre high silver iconostasis.

    In 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror seized the city, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. The cathedral's bells, altar, iconostasis, sacrificial vessels and other relics were taken away. The mosaics depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Christian saints and angels were removed or plastered over. Islamic features, for example, the mihrab - which shows the direction of Mecca, minbar - pulpit, and four minarets, were added. Until 1616 when the construction of the nearby Sultan Ahmed Mosque was complete Hagia Sophia was the most important mosque in Istanbul.

    Due to the plastering over of the inside of the church when it was converted into a mosque, the inside of Hagia Sophia is plainer than you might expect. There are, however, still some frescoes on display. There are also several gigantic circular disks on display. These are inscribed with the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the first four caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed: Hassan and Hussain. They were created by the calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa İzzed Effendi who lived from 1801 to 1877.

    Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya. Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya.
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Photography

    Was this review helpful?

  • Avieira67's Profile Photo

    Church Santa Sofia

    by Avieira67 Updated Jun 16, 2014

    Ayia Sofya is the forth biggest Cathedral in the world with its 56m high dome. Once a church, that became a Mosque, and now a Museum: This is one of the most extraordinary building in the history of architecture.
    The museum is open everyday, except on Mondays.

    Visiting hours
    09:30 – 16:30

    Was this review helpful?

  • Donna_in_India's Profile Photo

    Stunning Mosaics and Fascinating Details

    by Donna_in_India Updated Mar 16, 2014

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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!).

    Hagia Sophia/Ayasofya, Istanbul Mimbar, Hagia Sophia/Ayasofya, Istanbul Virgin Mary/Child, Hagia Sophia/Ayasofya, Istanbul Muezzin's Loge, Hagia Sophia/Ayasofya, Istanbul 19th cent Mihram, Hagia Sophia/Ayasofya, Istanbul
    Related to:
    • Religious Travel
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • xaver's Profile Photo

    One of the most incredible buildings on earth

    by xaver Written Jan 9, 2014

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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

    Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • magor65's Profile Photo

    Ayasofya - interior

    by magor65 Written Jan 5, 2014

    The main entrance to Hagia Sophia (Ayasofyia) leads through Imperial gate in the past used only by the Emperor himself. The moment you come inside, you are struck by the immense size of the construction. The nave is carried by a dome of 30 m in diameter, which is carried on four pendentives and supported by four massive pillars. Procopius, a Byzantine historian, put it that way: "It seems not to be founded on solid masonry, but to be suspended from heaven by that golden chain and so cover the space".
    Unfortunately, many of the beautiful mosaics covering the walls of the temple have been lost completely. From what remains, the mosaic of the Virgin Mary with the child, which is in the apse, is one of the most impressive. She's sitting on the backless throne, holding little Jesus in her arms and two archangels Michael and Gabriel are on her both sides. (Gabriel is partly and Michael largely destroyed).
    To see other mosaics it is recommended to climb the galleries. Hagia Sophia has two levels: a ground floor and galleries above. A part of the gallery was used as an imperial lodge, from which an empress could observe a service.
    In the upper south gallery we can see Deesis considered to be the finest mosaic in the church. It dates back to 1261 and shows Jesus standing between Mary and Saint John.

    Hagia Sophia was declared a UNESCO wrld Heritage Site in 1985.
    The museum is open every day except Mondays.
    Entrance fee is 25TL

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Museum Visits
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • magor65's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia as a mosque

    by magor65 Written Jan 4, 2014

    The year 1453 started another chapter in the life of Hagia Sophia. On May 28th Mehmed II marched into Constantinople and the Ottoman empire took over. Promptly, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. The mosaics were covered by paint or plaster, four minarets added, the monograms of four caliphs put on the pillars and other changes made. But the temple kept its name "Holy Wisdom" (Sophia means wisdom in Greek)

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Museum Visits
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • magor65's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia - the symbol of Bysantium

    by magor65 Written Jan 4, 2014

    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.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo

    Aya Sophia

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Jan 3, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Haga Sophia Haga Sophia Haga Sophia Haga Sophia Haga Sophia
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Religious Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • ainsleigh's Profile Photo

    Breathtaking Hagia Sophia

    by ainsleigh Updated Aug 17, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    The Hagia Sophia The Hagia Sophia The Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia's Beautiful Domes The Hagia Sophia
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia)

    by Dabs Written Jul 18, 2013

    2 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Was this review helpful?

  • pieter_jan_v's Profile Photo

    Aya Sofya (Getting in)

    by pieter_jan_v Updated Jul 15, 2013

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Aya Sofya - Ticket prices and more Aya Sofya front hall Aya Sofya front hall Aya Sofya front hall - roof Aya Sofya - Front hall balcony
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Castles and Palaces
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • TrendsetterME's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya, Istanbul, TR

    by TrendsetterME Updated Jun 24, 2013

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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 ... :)

    Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya, Istanbul, TR Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya, Istanbul, TR Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya, Istanbul, TR Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya, Istanbul, TR Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya, Istanbul, TR
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • ValbyDK's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia

    by ValbyDK Written Jun 9, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia
    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo

    Hagia Sophia

    by HORSCHECK Written Apr 6, 2013

    5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia Inside Hagia Sophia Inside Hagia Sophia
    Related to:
    • Trains
    • Backpacking
    • Budget Travel

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Istanbul

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

27 travelers online now

Comments

Hotels Near Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya
4.5 out of 5 stars
1 Review
0.1 miles away
Show Prices
4.5 out of 5 stars
0.1 miles away
Show Prices
Show Prices

View all Istanbul hotels