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Hagia Sophia 圣索非亚大教堂 아야 소피아

on August 4, 2011

Interior view of Hagia Sophia

Courtesy of


The Church of the Holy Wisdom, known as Hagia Sophia (Άγια Σοφία) in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin, and Ayasofya or Aya Sofya in Turkish, is a former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. Now a museum, Hagia Sophia is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world.

Site Information
Names: Hagia Sophia; Aya Sofya; Ayasofya; St. Sophia; Church of Holy Wisdom
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Faiths: Original/Primary: Christianity
Current/Secondary: Islam
Denomination: Greek Orthodox
Dedication: Holy Wisdom
Categories: Cathedrals; Mosques; World Heritage Sites
Architecture: Byzantine
Date: 532-37
Patron(s): Justinian
Architect: Isidore of Miletus; Anthemius of Tralles
Size: Width: 230 ft (70 m)
Height: 246 ft (75 m)
Dome diameter: 102 ft (31 m)
Features: Byzantine Mosaics
Status: museum
Photo gallery: Hagia Sophia Photo Gallery
Visitor Information
Address: Aya Sofya Sq., Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Coordinates: 41.008548° N, 28.979938° E   (view on Google Maps)
Lodging: View hotels near this location
Phone: 0212/522-1750
Public transport: Tram: Sultanahmet
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9am-4:30pm
Cost: 10YTL ($8.70) to grounds and main floor; another 10YTL for admission to gallery

Adapted from


Exterior view of the Hagia Sophia. Photo David Bjorgen.

Lithograph of the Hagia Sophia in 1852, by the Fossati brothers.

The müezzin mahfili, used by readers of the Koran during services. Photo © Andrys Basten.

Christian and Muslim religious art. Photo © Helen Betts.

All images featured above courtesy of


The church of Hagia Sophia (literally “Holy Wisdom”) in Constantinople, now Istanbul, was first dedicated in 360 by Emperor Constantius, son of the city’s founder, Emperor Constantine. Hagia Sophia served as the cathedra, or bishop’s seat, of the city. Originally called Megale Ekklesia (Great Church), the name Hagia Sophia came into use around 430. The first church structure was destroyed during riots in 404; the second church, built and dedicated in 415 by Emperor Theodosius II, burned down during the Nika revolt of 532, which caused vast destruction and death throughout the city.

Immediately after the riots, Emperor Justinian I(r. 527–65) ordered the church rebuilt. The new building was inaugurated on December 27, 537. Architects Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletos most likely were influenced by the mathematical theories of Archimedes (ca. 287–212 B.

The vast, airy naos, or central basilica, with its technically complex system of vaults and semi-domes, culminates in a high central dome with a diameter of over 101 feet (31 meters) and a height of 160 feet (48.5 meters). This central dome was often interpreted by contemporary commentators as the dome of heaven itself. Its weight is carried by four great arches, which rest on a series of tympana and semi-domes, which in turn rest on smaller semi-domes and arcades. This complicated structural system was prone to problems: the first dome collapsed in 558, to be rebuilt in 562 to a greater height. Earthquakes and earth subsidence have also taken their toll on the building over the centuries, although the surviving main structure is essentially that which was first built between 532 and 537.

The interior of Hagia Sophia was paneled with costly colored marbles and ornamental stone inlays. Decorative marble columns were taken from ancient buildings and reused to support the interior arcades. Initially, the upper part of the building was minimally decorated in gold with a huge cross in a medallion at the summit of the dome. After the period of Iconoclasm(726–843), new figural mosaics were added, some of which have survived to the present day.

After Mehmed II’s conquest of the city in 1453, Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque (Ayasofya Camii), which it remained until the fall of the Ottoman empire in the early twentieth century. A view of Hagia Sophia during the conquest is conveyed in a woodcut by Pieter Coecke van Aelst depicting the procession of Süleyman the Magnificent through the Hippodrome (28.85.7a). During this period, minarets were built around the perimeter of the building complex, Christian mosaic iconswere covered with whitewash, and exterior buttresses were added for structural support. In 1934, the Turkish government secularized the building, converting it into a museum, and the original mosaics were restored.

Source: Hagia Sophia, 532–37 | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Interactive Floor Plan of Hagia Sophia

Click on the respective regions to link to real-life photos taken there!
Courtesy of

If photos aren’t good enough for you to explore Hagia Sophia online, here’s a 360 degree interactive virtual tour:

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