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About Hagia Sophia | A marvel of Byzantine architecture

With its colossal dome, intricate mosaics, and exquisite decor, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia is the epitome of Byzantine architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it stands as a testament to Istanbul’s rich and diverse history.

Founded On

537

Founded By

Emperor Justinian I

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RECOMMENDED DURATION

1 hour

VISITORS PER YEAR

3500000

UNESCO YEAR

1985

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Did you know?

Hagia Sophia was the inspiration for the Blue Mosque. Its magnificent dome led to the construction of the other iconic mosque in Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia was once used as a military warehouse during the Ottoman Empire. Cannons and ammunition were stored within its walls.

Hagia Sophia has been hit by earthquakes on many instances, causing cracks in its roof and causing its half-domes to collapse. It has been repaired and restored several times throughout its history.

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Hagia Sophia | Byzantine’s crown jewel

Hagia Sophia, a historic marvel in Istanbul, Turkey, is an architectural masterpiece with a rich history dating back to 537 AD. Its awe-inspiring dome, stunning mosaics, and amalgamation of Byzantine and Ottoman influences make it a must-visit. To explore its beauty, secure Hagia Sophia skip-the-line tickets online for a seamless and memorable experience.

Why visit Hagia Sophia?

Why visit Hagia Sophia?
  • Witness architectural marvels: Hagia Sophia boasts awe-inspiring architecture, with its Grand Central Dome considered an engineering marvel for centuries. The blend of Byzantine and Ottoman influences creates a visually stunning and unique space.
  • Journey through history: Immerse yourself in the rich history of this mosque, which has served as a church, mosque, and museum. Each era has left its mark, from Byzantine mosaics to Ottoman inscriptions, offering a glimpse into different chapters of human civilization on its walls. 
  • A bridge between cultures: Hagia Sophia's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia reflects its role as a bridge between Eastern and Western traditions. Its architecture and history embody this unique blend, allowing visitors to appreciate diverse cultural influences.
  • Symbol of tolerance: Despite its conversion to a mosque, Hagia Sophia retains elements of its Christian past. This preservation fosters interfaith dialogue and understanding, promoting a message of religious tolerance and appreciation for cultural heritage.
  • Active place of worship: Experience the spiritual atmosphere of an active mosque at the Hagia Sophia. At this mosque museum, you can foster a deeper understanding of Islamic traditions and enrich your cultural perspective.

Hagia Sophia highlights

Marvel at the Grand Dome

Marvel at the Grand Dome

Towering above all else, the Hagia Sophia's dome is an engineering marvel that has inspired architects for centuries. Gaze up at its intricate details and mosaics, and appreciate the sunlight filtering through its windows.

Step back in time with the Deesis Mosaic

Step back in time with the Deesis Mosaic

This captivating mosaic, dating back to the 13th century, depicts Christ flanked by Mary and John the Baptist. Admire the vibrant colors and the solemn expressions of the figures.

Touch the Wishing Column

Touch the Wishing Column

Indulge in a local tradition by touching the Wishing Column, believed to grant wishes and possess healing powers. Feel the smooth marble and whisper your wish into the crevice.

Look at the Mihrab

Look at the Mihrab

This ornately decorated niche indicates the direction of Mecca, guiding Muslim worshippers during their prayers. Observe the intricate calligraphy and the significance it holds for the Islamic faith.

Gaze at the Minbar

Gaze at the Minbar

The Minbar is a raised pulpit, from where the imam delivered sermons to guide and inspire congregations across centuries. Take in the decorative details and imagine the power it once wielded.

Seek blessings at the Weeping Column

Seek blessings at the Weeping Column

It is said that a worn column at the Hagia Sophia contains healing properties. Visitors often circle their thumbs around its ridges to seek blessings.

Explore the Imperial Gate

Explore the Imperial Gate

This grand entrance, once reserved for emperors, now welcomes visitors into the Hagia Sophia. When visiting the mosque museum, admire its sheer size and intricate decorations.

Discover the secret mosaics

Discover the secret mosaics

Hidden for centuries under Ottoman plaster, these breathtaking mosaics depict biblical figures and scenes. Marvel at their artistic beauty and appreciate their rediscovery.

Unwind in the Serpentine Gallery

Unwind in the Serpentine Gallery

Take a moment of peace in this arcaded gallery, offering a serene escape from the crowds. Admire the columns, and imagine the emperors who once strolled here.

Why was the Hagia Sophia established?

Why was the Hagia Sophia established?

Emperor Justinian I, driven by ambition and piety, envisioned a monument that would surpass all others. Hagia Sophia wasn't merely a mosque; it was a statement of Byzantine power and a testament to God's glory. He entrusted two daring architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, with this impossible task. 

Defying gravity and tradition, they employed revolutionary techniques like lightweight pumice bricks and hidden ribs to support the record-breaking dome. Inside, you will find shimmering mosaics depicting angels and saints on the vast walls, reflecting light from towering windows.

Gilded columns and marble floors whispered of opulence, while the central focus remained the dome, painted with stars to evoke the heavens themselves. Justinian's dream materialized: a breathtaking fusion of engineering genius and artistic splendor, forever etching his name in history.

History of the Hagia Sophia in a nutshell

  • 532-537: Emperor Justinian I hired architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles to undertake a construction project.
  • 537: The Christian church of Hagia Sophia, renowned for its innovative architecture and stunning mosaics, was consecrated.
  • 8th-12th centuries: The structure undergoes damage as a result of earthquakes, necessitating restorations, and modifications to be made.
  • 1204-1261: While Constantinople was under the Latin Rule, the church experienced a period of disregard and harm.
  • 1453: Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans, after which the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. The conversion included the addition of minarets and a mihrab.
  • 15th-19th centuries: The Ottoman rulers carried out refurbishments and repairs, such as reinforcing the dome and incorporating calligraphic embellishments.
  • 1931: As part of the secularization campaign by the Turkish Republic, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum.
  • 1931-2020: Partially revealed and restored mosaics and Christian elements started drawing visitors from diverse religious backgrounds.
  • 2020: The Hagia Sophia in Turkey has been converted back into a mosque by the Turkish government, which has sparked a global debate on the matter.
  • Present: The site operates as a mosque with designated prayer areas while also offering limited guided tours outside prayer times

Who built the Hagia Sophia?

Emperor Justinian entrusted two geniuses - Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. Both were mathematicians and philosophers, known for their innovative approach and defiance of traditional limitations. Together, they revolutionized architecture by employing lightweight materials and hidden support structures to achieve the unprecedented scale and grandeur of the Hagia Sophia dome. This feat catapulted them into architectural history, forever remembered for pushing the boundaries of engineering and aesthetics. Although they collaborated on other projects, Hagia Sophia remains their defining masterpiece, a testament to their audacious vision and exceptional ingenuity.

Architecture and design of the Hagia Sophia

Architecture and design of the Hagia Sophia

Rising over 1,500 years old, Hagia Sophia stands as a marvel of Byzantine architecture. Its construction defied convention, pushing engineering limits with lightweight pumice and hidden ribs to support its record-breaking dome. Completed in 537 AD, this architectural feat soared above all others, symbolizing both imperial power and divine presence.

Inside, light floods through towering windows, illuminating vibrant mosaics depicting angels and saints. Gilded columns and marble floors exude opulence. The Grand Dome creates an illusion of gazing into the heavens, blurring the lines between earthly and celestial.

But Hagia Sophia's brilliance lies not just in its size and grandeur, but in its innovative blending of styles. Roman basilicas provided the foundation, while Eastern influences introduced centralized planning and domes. This fusion birthed a unique style that influenced architecture for centuries. With its breathtaking dome, shimmering mosaics, and innovative engineering, Hagia Sophia remains a testament to human ambition, artistic mastery, and architectural brilliance.

Frequently asked questions about the Hagia Sophia

What is the Hagia Sophia?

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hagia Sophia is a monumental structure in Istanbul that has served as a church, mosque, and museum throughout its 1,500+ year history. Currently functioning as a mosque, it remains a significant attraction for its architectural marvels and unique blend of religious influences.

Why is Hagia Sophia famous?

Renowned for its awe-inspiring dome, innovative Byzantine architecture, and rich history as a place of worship for various faiths, Hagia Sophia stands as a symbol of cultural exchange and architectural achievement.

What can I do at Hagia Sophia?

You can experience the mosque's grandeur, admire mosaics and architectural details, and learn about its history.

When was Hagia Sophia built?

Hagia Sophia’s construction was completed in 537 AD under Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

Where is Hagia Sophia located?

Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet district, Istanbul, Turkey; it sits prominently in the historic center of the city.

How can I get to Hagia Sophia?

You can avail of many public transportation options, like buses, trams, and the metro which connects to Sultanahmet.

What are Hagia Sophia's opening hours?

The Hagia Sophia is open daily throughout the year. Its prayer times vary throughout the day. You can check the Hagia Sophia's opening hours for more detailed information on its prayer hours.

When is the best time to visit Hagia Sophia?

The best time to visit Hagia Sophia is during the early mornings or weekdays, which offer smaller crowds. Avoid Fridays and prayer times to ensure access.

Is Hagia Sophia wheelchair accessible?

While the mosque is largely wheelchair accessible, some areas may have limited accessibility, despite the presence of ramps and elevators.

Are there dining options at Hagia Sophia?

Small cafes and vendors selling snacks are available outside the mosque. Nearby, Sultanahmet Square offers numerous restaurants.

Can I click pictures at Hagia Sophia?

Non-flash photography is generally permitted except during prayer times and in designated areas. Be respectful of worshippers.

Is there a dress code for visiting Hagia Sophia?

Modest attire covering shoulders and knees is recommended for both men and women. You have to pick up headscarves from the entrance if you do not have them on your person.

What other attractions are near Hagia Sophia?

Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, and Grand Bazaar are all within walking distance, offering a rich historical and cultural experience.