Fast Facts

  • Location: Aya Sofya Square, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
  • Best time to Visit: Throughout the year
  • Preferred timings: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on all days, except Mondays
  • Entrance fee: $4.50
  • How to reach: By road
  • Nearest International Airport: Istanbul International Ataturk Airport
  • Nearest railway station: Istanbul Sirkeci Railway Station
  • The time required for sightseeing: 1 hour

Visit Hagia Sophia in the first week of May as you can become a witness to the extraordinary Gypsy Music Festival of Istanbul which is participated by the leading Gypsy bands of the world. In June you can enthrall yourself at the International Mystical Music Festival. The International Jazz Festival in July is an open-air event and brings the leading international jazz musicians to Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is an intriguing architectural edifice. Originally built as a church by Constantine the Great, it later became a mosque during the reign of Ottoman emperor Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. Presently it is a museum and one of the architectural marvels of all times. Its free-floating dome is an inexplicable design and has left many architects amazed. Aya Sofya in Turkey, a UNESCO World Heritage site, according to many is the eighth wonder of the modern world.

The huge dome of diameter 31 meters resting on four pendentives gives the impression of a floating structure. Pendentives, or triangular spherical segments, have been used magnificently to support the dome on the rectangular base. You would be amazed at the enchanting amalgamation of Byzantine and Ottoman art forms in Turkey Hagia Sophia. The exterior is simple and stuccoed giving distinct impressions of vaults and dome. The interior is sheathed in gold mosaics, polychrome marble, purple porphyry, and white and green mosaics.

The representation of Archangel Gabriel, Virgin and Child, and Deesis Mosaic of the Byzantine period are outstanding. Also, make a careful note of the mosaic motif of Virgin with Constantine and Justinian, Virgin and Child with Emperor John II Comnenus and Empress Irene, and Christ with Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus and Empress Zoe. Most of these mosaic motifs were covered with plaster after being occupied by Muslim rulers. However, most of these images are being uncovered and restored to their previous glory. Inside you would also find eight wooden medallions with names of Allah, Muhammad, grandsons of Muhammad Husayn and Hasan, and Caliphs Umar, Abu Bakr, Ali, and Uthman.

Constantine the first Christian Emperor built the Hagia Sophia or Agia Sophia church with materials brought from Athens, Delphi, Ephesus, and Rome. Designed by Isidorus of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, this church was opened for the public in 537 AD. After being the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople for more than 900 years, it was captured by Sultan Mehmet in 1453. The canons used by him are still in the display. The mosaics were plastered, and Hagia Sophia was converted to an imperial mosque. Mausoleums of Selim II, Murad III, and Mehmed III were constructed near Hagia Sophia between 1577 and 1600.

The extensive restoration work of this historical monument was carried out by Fossati brothers Gaspare and Guiseppe of Switzerland from 1847 to 1849. In 1934, Kemal Ataturk the president of Turkey converted Hagia Sophia into Ayasofya Museum.

Related Links : To see the magnificent architectural splendor of the Hagia Sophia, watch this video! You will understand why it is considered to be one of the most attractive sites for the lovers of history, architecture, and art. Another video that presents the sublime beauty of this old place of worship. Check it out!

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