Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya, Istanbul

4.5 out of 5 stars 297 Reviews

Ayasofya Meydan?, Sultanahmet +90 212 522 1750

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

    The Grounds

    by mikey_e Written Dec 5, 2012

    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.

    The ritual fountain The fountain up close The entrance to the grounds The Medrese The turbe
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    The Mosaics

    by mikey_e Written Dec 5, 2012

    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.

    Upper Gallery mosaic Mosaic in the upper gallery Upper Gallery mosaic Dome mosaic Tile mosaic by the apse
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    Upper Galleries

    by mikey_e Written Dec 5, 2012

    The upper galleries of the mosque were reserved for women, particularly for the ladies of the court and for the Empress. In both Orthodox Christianity and Islam (outside of the Grand Mosque in Mecca), men and women are separated in church, and thus special sections must be maintained for the female faithful. The Empress’s loge and the surrounding, horseshoe shaped galleries above the nave-cum-prayer hall provided an ideal spot at which the women would be able to observe the proceedings during religious rites without mingling with the men. The fact that this too was a place in which royals would be present means that it is no less sumptuously decorated, with a large marble door marking the entrance to synods, or ecclesiastical councils, as well as a special green stone for the placement of the Empress, and numerous mosaics.

    The upper galleries Traffic in the galleries The Marble Door Windows on the gallery Looking down the gallery
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    The interior

    by mikey_e Written Dec 5, 2012

    It is hard not to be impressed by the interior of Aya Sofya. While mosques do tend to be airy and more open than churches (owing not only to the lack of seating, but also to the fact that worshippers pray together, shoulder to shoulder), this particular structure takes this phenomenon to a new extreme. The massive dome, a tribute to the wonders of Byzantine architecture and engineering, is supported by an equally massive and cavernous interior. The dome was initially supported by columns that were taken from the Greek ruins at Baalbek, in Lebanon, but, over the years, these were reinforced with more buttresses and ribs, added by Byzantine and Ottoman architects alike, as the materials used in the construction of the walls of the church were not suitable for the weight of the dome. Beyond the grandeur of the dome, however, there is also the spectacular decoration of the rest of the interior. These include wall sections made from marble, as well as urns and objet-d’art from similar semi-precious materials, and the famous calligraphic paints at the meeting of the wall and the dome added after the conversion of the cathedral to a mosque.

    Inside Agia Sophia The apse from above A view of the minbar Up to the galleries The dome
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    Istanbul's icon

    by mikey_e Updated Dec 5, 2012

    For Istanbul, Hagia Sophia is iconic. The image of this magnificent fourth century structure concretizes the ethos of Istanbul and its ability to go from appropriation to harmonization to institutionalization as if the trend were organic and natural. Hagia Sophia was initially built as a Christian basilica in the 4th century, but was destroyed twice before the current structure was erected in the sixth century under the auspices of Justinian I, who ordered a larger church than the ones that had been planned initially. The massive dome was its most impressive characteristic, and one that caused repeated headaches for the church’s overseers, as it was damaged through the various earthquakes that struck the region. Occasionally, whole smaller domes and sections would collapse, requiring the emperors to retain the services of famous engineers and architects from throughout the Empire to rebuild and fortify the structure. Immediately after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, the cathedral became Aya Sofya mosque, and a small minaret was added to the grounds. Another minaret was added at the turn of the 15th century, and after the loss of a tower during an earthquake, Mimar Sinan added two more during the seventeenth century. Throughout the Ottoman period, the various Sultans not only sought to add decorative elements to the now-mosque, but also contracted the services of various architects to help repair, restore and fortify the structure against the earthquakes that periodically ravage Istanbul. In the 18th and 19th centuries, further additions were made with a medrese, kulliye (social space), library and mausoleum. Finally, with the fall of the Ottomans, the Republican government turned the cathedral-cum-mosque into a museum in the 1930s, which it remains to this day.

    Hagia Sophia The front of the church Hagia Sophia's northern minaret The minaret A view of the Byzantine walls
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    Mosaics of the Hagia Sophia

    by MM212 Updated Oct 31, 2012

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    Upon completion in 537 AD, the Hagia Sophia's ceilings and dome were entirely covered in glistening mosaics. Some of these original mosaics, in the form of plain golden background, or polychrome decorations have withstood the test of time in patches inside the basilica. Although they are believed to have included images, none have survived as they would have been destroyed along with all of the icons in 726 AD, the beginning of the iconoclastic period in which the use of imagery in worship became prohibited. The end of this period was signalled in 867 AD by the completion of the mosaic of Virgin and Child on the half dome of the apse, which has miraculously survived to this day. Other notable mosaics were gradually added to the church over the next few centuries and many of them have survived, scattered around the Hagia Sophia. Unfortunately, during sacking of Constantinople in 1204 AD, the Crusaders vandalised many of the basilica's mosaics and most were never repaired thereafter. During the Ottoman conversion of the basilica into a mosque, the surviving images were either covered in plaster or further destroyed, while no effort was made to repair the slowly decaying decorative ones. Instead, a 19th century restoration saw decorative motifs drawn over plaster to replace the fallen mosaics (see attached photos). It was only during the conversion of the mosque-church into a museum in the early 20th century that the few remaining mosaics were fully uncovered and restored.

    For additional photos of the mosaics, check out the travelogue: "Hagia Sophia Mosaics".

    Christ Pantocrator, 13th c. Deesis Mosaic, Jan 10 9th c. Virgin & Child in apse, Jan 2010 Decorative mosaics, Ottoman plaster & drawings Original 6th c. decorative mosaics, Jan 2010 Byzantine mosaics, Ottoman motifs, Jan 2010
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    Do this with the Blue Mosque

    by crazyman2 Written Jul 25, 2012

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    It felt far more crowded than the Blue Mosque next door.

    There is an upper gallery to explore and there are some interesting artworks on display.

    Outside you can view the early history of the structure.

    I've been here a few times and have always looked forward to returning.

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    Haghia Sophia Byzantium Church - Outstanding.

    by Mikebb Updated Mar 13, 2012

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    We visited many outstanding places during our Istanbul tour but none match the Hagia Sophia. It is a pity our visit was scheduled for the last day of our tour, otherwise we would have returned. There is so much to see and do that one would need two or three visits to commence to appreciate the beauty and content of this magnificent Byzantine Church which is now a mosque.

    The Haghia Sophia was built over the site of 2 previous churches and inaugurated by Emperor Justinian in the year 537 AD.

    Our tour guide took us through the crowds waiting for entry and then up to the first floor where we obtain a general overview of the mosque. He then explained the history and main facts of the buildiny; to much to absorb at that point of time. We were then given 90 minutes to wander around, take photos, find something to eat etc etc.

    Enough time to appreciate the magnificence of the Mosque, and leave with the memory and photos to hopefully return another time.

    Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia - Dome Interior - Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia - View From First Floor Balcony Calligraphic Roundel  - Hagia Sophia
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    Sultan Selim II tomb

    by Raimix Updated Feb 6, 2012

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    Sultan Selim tomb was designed by famous Turkish architect Sinan. Sultan offered to build a tomb just nearby Hagia Sophia, and it was completed in 1577, actually 3 years later than his death.

    The structure is octagonal, interior is rich in flower motives. All tomb complex houses 42 sarcophaguses of Sultan Selim II, his mother, daughters, sons.

    Actually I loved the architecture of that big tomb, but I expected to see more detailed sarcophaguses, probably original ones were gone somewhere.

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    Hagia Sophia

    by Raimix Updated Feb 6, 2012

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    Hagia Sofia or “Church of Holy Wisdom” in Greek is a place, where was a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica for nearly 1000 years. The current form church was designed and built in 532 by the Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles.

    At the same place, where Hagia Sofia stands now where were two churches – from year of 330 – Great church and from 415 another one, as a major reconstruction of older one. Later, after big fire, new Hagia Sofia appeared.

    Hagia Sofia is an important structure of the World both confessional and architecturally. Firstly, it had significant role for Constantinople and Orthodox World and well as Islam world (from 1453, when it became mosque). Secondly, such big cupola is one of the biggest in the World; what is more, it is the first pendentive cupola in the World. A form of this structure was an example for building many mosques in Islam world (Blue mosque in Istanbul is not exception).

    The cost for an entrance was 20 liras. Despite it looks expensive, but really worth, as I will never forget the feeling inside.

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    The Aya Sophia

    by asolotraveler Written Dec 28, 2011

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    I waited a few days before going to visit this place. The first time I saw it, the line was way too long for mee to stand in. I went on another day when I could tolerate the line. The cost was 20 Lira and they gave you a little package of wipes to keep your hands clean. Even though there was a line, it seemed to move fast. The inside is so huge that with all those people milling about, it did not feel stuffy. I took pictures and then headed up to the Upper Leverl. Warning: Please be very careful. The cobbletone walkway is very slippery because of all the tourist walking on them. No Heels. There is no hand-rails to hold onto, just the wall. There is a hand-rail on the other side going down. Over-all it was a pretty impressive museum. Don't forget to get your hand-out. They have them written in several languages.

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    AYA SOFYA – HAGHIA SOPHIA

    by mtncorg Written Nov 14, 2011

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    The Church of Divine Wisdom, Aya Sofya is almost 1,500 years old. All trips to Istanbul start here. Completed in 537 on the site of two previous churches that had previously burnt in succession – those churches had been built in turn on the site of a previous pagan temple – Aya Sofya was the center of Eastern Christianity for almost a thousand years. With the Turkish conquest in 1454, the church became an imperial mosque until 1935 when Atatürk changed the building into the museum it is today.

    Cost for foreigners is 20 TL and opening hours are Tue-Sun 0900-1900 (winter 0930-1630). Come early in the day as Aya Sofya gets busier and crazier as the day goes on. On the second floor you can see some of the remaining mosaics that used to cover the walls before the Ottoman conquest. Instead of including a vast array of tips, see my travelogue for a closer look at Aya Sofya if you are interested in a deeper look at this magnificent building.

    Aya Sofya - as magnificent today as 1500 years ago Magnificent interior of the Aya Sofya Night view of Aya Sofya The Mimbar - Mary and Jesus looking from above To think of the people who have been here ....!
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  • Spectacular

    by Dinaelghitany Written Sep 11, 2011

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    Once you enter, you will see the most spectacular scene, with the humongous hall with an extra large dome, Christian and Islamic paintings all mixed up. Tickets are for 20 TL including the upper gallery.

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    Haghia Sophia

    by smirnofforiginal Updated Aug 18, 2011

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    Firstly it should be said that Aya Sofya is not open on a Monday.
    Secondly, the first time I turned up the queue was so long I would not be surprised if it had run all the way to Greece! I went back 2 hours later and what do you know - no queue at all!!!

    Tripods for cameras are not permitted. All bags go through security and if you have one it will be confiscated so, best to leave it at the hotel!

    Entrance is 20 lira.

    This beautiful building was built y the Romans and was the greatest church in the whole of Christendom. Along came Mehmet (1453) and having successfully conquered he turned it into a mosque. In 1935 Ataturk turned it into a museum.

    Due to its function now being that of a museum there is no code of dress i.e no need to cover your head etc...

    The beauty of this place cannot be sufficiently described with words and I am quite sure photographs do not do it justice..

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    Aya Sofya (The main hall)

    by pieter_jan_v Updated Jun 13, 2011

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    The Aya Sofia is the top attraction of Istanbul. This church/mosque has the following to offer:

    GARDEN
    -Historical background
    -Ambon
    -Second Hagia Sofya
    -Pieces of Second Hagia Sofya
    -Burial chamber or Catacomb
    -Minarets
    -Western Buttresses

    NEARTHEX
    -Mosaic of Tughra
    -Libation Vessel
    -Sarcophagus of Empress Irene
    -Inscriptions of 1166 Synod
    -Underground Cisterns
    -Portals
    -Mosaic of Emperor Leo VI

    INTERIOR
    -Hodegetria Icon
    -Porphyry columns
    -Marble water jars
    -Iconoclastic Crosses in Mosaic
    -Angels on Dome and Pendentives
    -Mosaic of Patriarchs
    -Ottoman Calligraphy Plates
    -Coronation spot
    -The Emperor's Throne
    -Gathering Place of Muezzin
    -Hagia Sofya Library
    -Minbar
    -Mihrab and its chandeliers
    -Mosaic of Mother Mary, Gabriel and stained glass
    -Imperial Loggia
    -Wish Column

    GALLERY
    -Ramps
    -Upper Imperial Gallery
    -Wooden supports and Column Capitals
    -Patriarchate
    -Marble Door
    -Deesis Mosaic
    -Viking Graffitto
    -Tomb of Enrico Dandolo
    -Empress Zoe Mosaic
    -Emperor John II Komnenos Mosaic
    -Tomb at desending ramp

    EXIT
    -Presentation Mosaic
    -Bronze doors

    GARDEN
    -BAptistery
    -Fountain
    -Primary School
    -Muvakkithane
    -Tombs

    Aya Sofya Interior Aya Sofya Interior Aya Sofya Interior Aya Sofya Interior - Angel on Dome Aya Sofya - Dome
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