Ayasofya Meydanı, Sultanahmet Fatih, Istanbul, Turquey
GPS: 41.009685300154, 28.980830207875
The building of Hagia Sophia sanctuary with its dome of Hagia Sophia (Hagia Sophia in Greek or Ayasofya in Turkish), means “Divine Wisdom” or “Holy Wisdom”. It was built during the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I on the site of the Byzantine Acropolis in the 6th century. Its construction in 532 as a Greek Orthodox church was prompted by the successive destruction of two earlier basilicas by fire and earthquakes. These were built in turn by Emperor Constantine I in 330 (who gave his name to the city) and Emperor Theodosius II in 415.
Ambitiously, Justinian I wanted to found a huge dome of Hagia Sophia sanctuary in Constantinople dedicated to Christ and the wisdom of God, the Temple of Divine Wisdom. To achieve his goals, he drew inspiration from the plans of the Pantheon in Rome, selecting the most refined materials and mobilising the best workers in his empire. Hagia Sophia quickly became the main church in Constantinople and a flourishing stop on the Silk Road. The seat of the Orthodox Patriarch, one of the oldest dioceses in the Christian world, Hagia Sophia hosted the coronation ceremonies of the Byzantine emperors. At the beginning of the 13th century, during the Fourth Crusade, the basilica fell into the hands of the Latin crusaders who plundered it of its riches. It then became the home of the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople. Two centuries later, the dome of Hagia Sophia sanctuary was converted into a mosque and became a mosque. After a military siege in 1453, the city led by Constantine XI Palaeologus was conquered by the 7th Sultan, Mehmed II the Conqueror, who made it the great capital of the Ottoman Empire. This battle coincided with the fall of the Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire). From 1934 onwards, this emblematic monument of Istanbul was once again transformed into a museum, this time as part of the secularisation of the country, under the aegis of Kemal Atatürk (the first president of the Turkish republic) demonstrating how it has been part of Eastern and Western culture.
Severely damaged on several occasions by earthquakes (part of the original dome collapsed in 558), Hagia Sophia is undergoing extensive restoration. It is topped with large minarets by the Ottoman architect Sinan in the 16th century. Additions, motifs and decorative elements embellished the interior of the mosque before its conversion into a museum. This masterpiece of Byzantine architecture remained the largest church ever built in the world for 1,000 years until the construction of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome (consecrated in 1626). Following an administrative court decision, the dome of Hagia Sophia sanctuary is once again dedicated to Muslim worship since 2020 turning the cathedral church of Hagia Sophia into a mosque with marble and mosaic decoration of the interior of Hagia Sophia. Remarkable aspects of Saint Sophia or Hagia Sophia include or have included the floor of Hagia Sophia, the eastern end of Hagia Sophia, the byzantine art, the nave, arch, vault, altar, second dome, the throne in the apse, frescoes and mosaics and all that is part of the dome making this a Unesco World Heritage site with much to still see.