“Hagia Sophia” is a majestic Turkish religious edifice; It is glorified by Muslims and Christians alike. After being the largest cathedral for Orthodox Christians for nine hundred years, it became one of the greatest mosques for Muslims for nearly five centuries, then it became an art museum since 1934 by political decision. It is considered by UNESCO as a historical monument belonging to the world cultural wealth.
It is said that the name Hagia Sophia means in Greek the "holy wisdom", and its edifice was constructed at the entrance to the Bosphorus in the European section of Istanbul, Turkey. Today its location is known as the "Sultanahmet District".
It was intended - architecturally - to be the largest Christian church, and as evidence of the advanced technical capabilities of the Byzantine Empire.
Its building, which took five years to construct and represents one of the masterpieces of Byzantine art, includes a wide dome that is 55.6 meters high and 32 meters in diameter, and is based on four huge columns, each reaching 24.3 meters high. This is in addition to the walls built of marble brought in from many countries, and decorated with shiny golden mosaics and colored stones.
The main building is 82 meters long, 73 meters wide, 55 meters high, and has nine gates. Its surface was covered with mosaic stones, and the walls - after converted into a mosque - are decorated with inscriptions of the Ottoman calligrapher. Also added four cylindrical minarets in the Ottoman style.
Hagia Sophia was established in 537 by order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527-565) - whose rule extended from Spain to the Middle East region - as a religious edifice unparalleled in the Christian world, and a title of the strength of the Eastern Roman state.
It remained the official church of the Byzantine Christian state and the jewel of its capital, Constantinople, although it was destroyed and burned more than once, until the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (known as "Muhammad Al-Fatih") came to the city in 1453 and changed its name to "Istanbul", and entered this church where he prayed the first Friday after, and making it a great mosque, symbolizes - in the opposite direction - the power and control of the Ottoman Empire.
From that time on, the Hagia Sophia became a great Islamic mosque with great symbolism for the Turks, until their military leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - who ended the rule of the Ottoman caliphate in 1923 and declared the establishment of a secular republic in its place - in 1931, then transformed it in 1935 to An art museum with Islamic and Christian archaeological treasures.
Hagia Sophia is seen as a world archaeological landmark, reflecting the diversity of the cultural heritage of Istanbul, which is located on the point of civilizational intersection between East and West, and has historically been the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. It was included by UNESCO in 1985 in its list of World Heritage Sites.
But it represents a global cultural symbol that has a special weight for Orthodox Christians everywhere, and it is a religious tourist destination for millions of them because of its religious and emotional connotation. For the Greeks, among them, in particular, it is a strong memory of a historical period that embodies their hopes for a better future in terms of Christian religious consolation.
Hagia Sophia is ranked second among the most attractive Turkish museums for tourists. In 2019, it attracted 4.2 million visitors. Among the most famous Christian religious figures that I visited in the last decades was the late Pope John Paul VI, who raised a surprise when he was kneeled and prayed during his visit to Turkey in 1967.
It is one of the most visited places for tourism in Turkey during the all four seasons. From the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar Grand Market in Beyazit can be reached in just minutes on foot or by tram station. It is also easy to reach from the Hagia Sophia Museum or from the city of Sultan Ahmed to many tourist places such as the ferry port in Kabatash Then to the famous Istiklal Street and Taksim Square square via the tram station and then the metro station within minutes.
From Taksim Square, you can go through Taksim metro station to the Kabatash region, and from the Kabatash area, you can reach the city of Sultan Ahmed through the tram station within minutes only, and from the Aksaray and Lallali area in Fatih, you can reach the Hagia Sophia Museum within minutes also via a station Tram.
The Hagia Sophia Museum contains many motifs and Islamic treasures such as the word “Majesty” (God almighty) and the name of the Prophet Muhammad, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, and Christian icons above the ceiling such as the icon of the Virgin Mary in addition to mosaic plates of Byzantine art and some of the graves of the sultans The Ottomans have a large mihrab, columns, and dome, and 4 large minarets for the call to prayer.
The museum is closed for half-day visits on the first day of Ramadan and sacrifice festivals.