Hagia Sophia Mosque Travel Guide

This content was last updated on 01.07.2022 23:11

The Hagia Sophia Mosque is one of the most visited historical places in Istanbul, which we have added to our list of places to visit in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia, whose history dating back to 337, opens its doors to more than 2 million visitors every year.

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Hagia Sophia is actually the third structure built on the same place. The first building was built by Constantius, the emperor of the period, in 360 with a basilica plan and wooden roof. During the Arcadios period, the first building was burned by the rebels in 404. Second structure II. It was rebuilt by Theodosios in 415 with a similar plan and became the largest church in Istanbul between 415-532. In 532, as a result of the Nika revolt against Emperor Justinian, it was burned again and its remains were cleaned. Emperor Justinian had the Hagia Sophia, which means "Holy Wisdom" as the world's largest church, rebuilt on the same place in a short time like 5 years and opened the Hagia Sophia Church, which was completed, to worship on 27 December 537 with a great ceremony.

Hagia Sophia - Inside View

When Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul in 1453, he turned Hagia Sophia, the largest religious building in the city, into a mosque, and was renovated and strengthened with supporting walls. The most extensive repair work in Hagia Sophia was carried out by Mimar Sinan in the 16th century, and during this period the supporting walls and minarets were added to the structure.

Hagia Sophia, where you can see Christian and Islamic elements together, was turned into a museum on February 1, 1935, and opened to visitors by the decision of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the Council of Ministers.

Hagia Sophia, which was opened for worship again in 2020, serves as a mosque today.

Where is Hagia Sophia?

Hagia Sophia, the heart of Istanbul, is located in the Sultanahmet district of Fatih district.

Address: Sultanahmet, Fatih / Istanbul

Click for location information.

How to go to Hagia Sophia?

To reach Hagia Sophia, using the Baglicalar - Kabatas tram line is the most practical way.

Get off at one of the Sultanahmet or Gülhane stops. Because the Hagia Sophia Museum is right in the middle of the two stops. The distance of the museum to the two stops is the same, about 200 meters.

Those coming from the Anatolian side can reach the tram line by taking the ferry from Kadıköy or Üsküdar to Eminönü.

Hagia Sophia Entrance Fee

While the Hagia Sophia was in the form of a museum, visitors were charged a fee at the entrance. With the opening of worship as a mosque in 2020, entry is now free.

With the status of a mosque, Hagia Sophia is not only visited by Muslims. It is open to tourists as it used to be.

Hagia Sophia Visiting Hours

Hagia Sophia Mosque, which was reopened as a mosque on July 24, 2020, is open to visitors 24 hours a day. You can visit whenever you want, including weekdays and weekends.

How Much Time Do I Need for Hagia Sophia?

You can see the architecture, construction, mosaics, imperial gate, upper galleries, etc. of Hagia Sophia. You should spare at least 1.5 hours to examine it in detail.

Must-See Sections in Hagia Sophia

Considering that in the historical past of Hagia Sophia, it was used as a church for 916 years and a mosque for 482 years, we remind you that this museum is a holy temple and should be treated in accordance with its historical identity.

There is no doubt that you will experience a great surprise when you take your first step through the entrance door of Hagia Sophia. You will be fascinated by this magnificent historical building.

Columns and Marbles Brought from Ancient Cities

Hagia Sophia - Marble Columns

Justinian requested materials from all over the empire for the rebuilding of the church, and he also collected the processed materials of the old buildings. Thereupon, eight large red porphyry columns were brought from Heliopolis in Egypt, from the Temple of Artemis in Western Anatolia Ephesos, from Kyzikos and from Ba‘lebek in Syria. In addition, marbles of different types and colors from different regions were moved here.

Dome and Angel Depictions

Hagia Sophia - Dome and Angel Depictions

The dimensions of the dome are unusually large for a church. The height of the dome covering the main space is 55.60 meters from the ground, and its diameter is 31.87 meters in the north-south direction and 30.86 meters in the east-west direction. In order for the dome not to collapse easily in earthquakes, light and strong bricks specially produced from Rhodes soil were used.

In each corner, the angels of Seraphim, who are believed to protect the throne of God in heaven, are depicted. The angel depictions in the eastern part are made of mosaics. The ones in the west were renovated as frescoes because they were damaged during the Eastern Roman Period. Angel depictions were closed during the Ottoman Period.

With the conquest of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and many Islamic motifs were added to create an Islamic temple atmosphere. The most important of these is of course the verse “God is the light of the heavens and the earth” written on the dome of Hagia Sophia. (Surah Nur, verse 35) Calligrapher Kadıasker is the work of Mustafa İzzet Efendi. It was built during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid.

Imperial Gate

Hagia Sophia - Imperial Gate

The door, which is called the Emperor's Gate because it was used only by the Emperor and his nature, provides the transition from the inner narthex to the main space in Hagia Sophia. This is the largest door of Hagia Sophia and is made of oak wood, 7 meters high, with a bronze frame. The wings of the gate, which date back to the 6th century, are covered with bronze plates. In Eastern Roman sources, it is claimed to have been made from the woods of Noah's Ark. The mosaic on it is the first unearthed mosaic of Hagia Sophia.

Apse Mosaic

Hagia Sophia - Apse Mosaic

It is thought that all the figured mosaics in the building were removed with the iconoclasm period. After the end of this period in 843, the first figured mosaic, the Apse Mosaic, was made in Hagia Sophia. In the middle of the mosaic, the Virgin Mary is depicted sitting on a cushioned throne decorated with precious stones. She is holding the child Jesus in her arms.

VI. Leon Mosaic

Hagia Sophia - VI. Leon Mosaic

Dating to the 10th century, the mosaic is located on the Imperial Gate. The depiction of Jesus in the middle of the scene holds an open Bible in his left hand. With his right hand, Emperor VI, who is depicted prostrating to him at his feet. He blesses Leon (816-912). On the right of the mosaic, there is a depiction of Gabriel in a medallion, and on the left, a depiction of Mary in a medallion.

The Vestibule Mosaic

The Vestibule Mosaic

It is located above the Beautiful Gate to the south of the inner narthex. The mosaic found on the ceremonial gate used by the empire and its family was unearthed by Fossati in 1849 during the restoration of Hagia Sophia. In the middle of the panel made of gold mosaics, the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus on her lap are depicted. On the left side of the Virgin Mary, Konstantinos is depicted with a figure symbolizing Constantinople, and on the right side, Justinian is depicted with a figure symbolizing Hagia Sophia. It is told here that the emperors presented the city and the church to Mary to protect the city and the church.

Tympanum Mosaics

Hagia Sophia - Tympanum Mosaics

Although the exact dates of their construction are unknown, these mosaics, which are thought to have been made in the 9th to 10th centuries, are located in half-arched niches on the tympanum walls in the northern direction of the building. Only three of the patriarch figures depicted in the mosaics have survived to the present day in a well-preserved condition. The Patriarch of Constantinople Young Ignatios is in the first niche, the Patriarch of Constantinople St. Ioannes Chrysostomos is in the fourth niche, and the Patriarch of Antiocheia St. Ignatios Theophoros is in the sixth niche. The figure depicted in the seventh niche is thought to be Athanasius.

Emperor Alexander Mosaic

Hagia Sophia - Emperor Alexander Mosaic

In the mosaic located in the southwest part of the north gallery, VI. The brother Emperor Alexandros (912-913), whom Leon shared in his reign, is depicted. The mosaic dating back to the 10th century is one of the most intact mosaics among the Hagia Sophia mosaics.

Calligraphic Roundels

Hagia Sophia - Calligraphic Roundels

There are 8 large calligraphy round plates in Hagia Sophia. These plates were written by calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi with gilding on a green ground made of hemp, during the repairs made between 1847-1849 during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861). Eight plates, on which the names "Allah, Prophet Muhammad, the Four Caliphs, Hz. Abu Bakr, Hz. Ömer, Hz. Osman, Hz. Ali, and the grandchildren of Prophet Muhammad, Hz. Hasan and Hz. Hussein" are written, are part of the Islamic World. It is known to be one of the largest line plates of . It is known that the course of the plates in Hagia Sophia, which changed after the conquest, changed in line with the wishes of the sultans who came to the reign. The diameter of the giant plates is 7.5 meters and the thickness of the letters is 35 cm.

Altar (Mihrab)

Hagia Sophia - Altar

The mihrab, located in the southeast of the main space, was repaired and added by the Ottoman sultans from time to time. Renovated in the 19th century, the mihrab has a polygonal niche with sunburst and star motifs and a semi-domed hood. A lot of gold stars are used in the altar and it has an ostentatious crest. On both sides of the mihrab, there are candlesticks brought from the palace church of the Hungarian King Matyas I during the Hungarian campaign during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566).

Tiles Around the Mihrab

Hagia Sophia - Tiles Around the Mihrab

Behind the mihrab, the 255th verse of Surah Baccarat "Ayetü'l Kürsi" is written on the cobalt blue tile belt that wraps the wall in the form of a belt. At the end of the tile belt, "Ketebehu El Fakir Muhammed 1016" is written in a red and white contoured badge. There are tile panels in the corridors on the right and left of the mihrab. In the corridor on the left, the herbal patterned tile panel belonging to the Old Hünkar Mahfili consists of Iznik tiles dated to the 16th century. There are two separate depictions on the panel in the corridor on the right. One of them is the Kaaba depiction consisting of eight parts, and the other is Hz. It depicts the Tomb of Muhammad. It is understood from the tiles here that Turkish tile art reached its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries.

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