Hagia Sophia is a unique chance to go back in time and explore the culture, and be amazed by the architecture of two religions side by side. A building that has gone through several changes throughout history, to eventually become one of the most visit museums in the world. It’s very rare to be able to walk a place like this, and there is interesting history behind it.
Hagia Sophia was initially constructed back in 537 AD as an Orthodox cathedral, and remained so until the Latin Emperor of Constantinople turned it into Roman Catholic cathedral in 1204, only to be turned back into Orthodox again in 1261. The building then was turned into a mosque in 1453 under the ruling of ruling of the Ottoman Empire. The conversion saw a lot of the cathedral symbols removed and replaced, however not all was removed. Some of the mosaics and were only covered back then. So when the mosque and reopened in 1935 as a museum, the original mosaics were uncovered again, and you can see them once more, only side by side to the Islamic architecture and pieces of art.
Did you know?
That there were actually two buildings in place of Hagia Sophia before that. The first was called the Great Church, and was inaugurated in 360 AD. During series of riots back in 404, the church was burned down, and nothing remains of it today.
In 415, a second church was inaugurated by Theodosius II, only to face the same fate and get burned during the Nika revolt in 532. Some parts of the second church remains until this day however, and you can see it during your visit to the Hagia Sophia museum.
Some of the remains of the second Hagia Sophia (Credits I, Jojan)
Few weeks after the destruction, Emperor Justinian ordered the construction of a third basilica. One much larger and majestic than its predecessor. One that will remain for centuries to come, go over several major changes over history. One that will be known as one of the most significant architectural structures in the world, drawing over 3 million visitors each year, making it the most visited museum in Turkey. One that the world at large knows today as Hagia Sophia museum.