A waterway that separates Europe from Asia, the Bosporus strait, separates Istanbul from other European cities.A city of over 15 million individuals, Istanbul is on two continents.

What Is the Hagia Sophia?

Hagia Sophia was built as a basilica for the Greek Orthodox Christian Church (Ayasofya).Since then, it has changed its function several times.

.Istanbul, then known as Constantinople due to his father, Constantine I, the first ruler of the Byzantine Empire, built the first Hagia Sophia in 360 A.D.

At its initial construction, Hagia Sophia featured a wooden roof.It was destroyed in 404 Constantinople, which occurred as a result of conflict between the family of then-Emperor Arkadios, who ruled from 395 to 408.

Emperor Theodosios II, Arkadios' successor, rebuilt the Hagia Sophia, and he completed the project in 415.In addition to having five naves and a monumental entrance, the second Hagia Sophia was also covered with a wooden roof.

A little over a century later, this would prove to be a fatal flaw for this important Greek Orthodox basilica, as it was burned during Emperor Justinian I's reign, from 527 to 565, during the so-called "Nika revolts."

Hagia Sophia

After the damage caused by the fire could not be repaired, Justinian ordered the Hagia Sophia to be destroyed in 532.Among the architects he commissioned were Isidore (Milet) and Anthemios (Tralles).

A third Hagia Sophia was finished in 537, and it remains standing today.

The first religious rituals were conducted in the "new" Hagia Sophia on December 27, 537.It's reported that Emperor Justinian said, "Thank you my Lord for giving me the opportunity to build such a shrine."

The Hagia Sophia’s Design

Those who have seen the final Hagia Sophia can truly say this was a remarkable building from the start.This basilica combined traditional design elements of an Orthodox basilica with a large, dome-topped roof, a semi-domed altar, and two porches.

Six winged angels called hexapterygon decorated the dome's supporting arches.

As part of Justinian's effort to build a grand basilica that would represent the entire Byzantine Empire, all the provinces under his rule sent architectural pieces to be used in its construction.

Marble was used on the floor and ceiling of the building, and other bricks (used in the walls and parts of the floor) came from as far away as North Africa.There are enormous marble slabs lining the interior of Hagia Sophia, which are said to represent moving water.

The Hagia Sophia's 104 columns were also imported from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, as well as from Egypt.

With a length of 269 feet and a width of 240 feet, the domed roof of the building stretches 180 feet high at its highest point.

Continue scrolling

Recommended for you


5 Founding Fathers Whose Finances Shaped the American Revolution


When Soviet-Led Forces Crushed the 1968 ‘Prague Spring’


6 Ways Coffee Helped Transform the World

Hagia Sophia’s Tumultuous

Hagia Sophia served as a central church for Orthodox believers in the Byzantine Empire, and as such became the place where emperors were crowned.

There is a large circular marble section in the floor of the nave called an Omphalion (navel of the earth) consisting of colorful stones arranged in an intertwining design.

Hagia Sophia played a pivotal role in Byzantine culture and politics during its first 900 years of existence.

During the Crusades, however, Constantinople and Hagia Sophia, as well as other parts of the city, were under rule by the Romans.When the Byzantines once again seized control of the surrounding city, Hagia Sophia was repaired.

In 1453, the Ottomans led by Mehmed the Conqueror captured Constantinople and began the next major period of change for Hagia Sophia.As part of its renaming process, Istanbul became Istanbul.

Renovations to the Hagia Sophia

Islam was the dominant religion of the Ottomans, so the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque.By the time of the Ottoman Empire's conversion, the original Orthodox mosaics were covered with Islamic calligraphy, designed by Kazasker Mustafa İzzet.

Medallions, which hung on the columns in the nave, were inscribed with the names of Allah, Muhammad, the four Caliphs, and two of his grandsons.

There is also gold calligraphy on the mosaic on the main dome - believed to be a portrait of Christ.


This period also saw the construction of four minarets on the original building, partly for religious reasons (for muezzin calls to prayer) and partly to protect the structure after earthquakes struck the city around the time.

Between 1847 and 1849, the Hagia Sophia underwent a thorough renovation under Sultan Abdülmecid, led by Swiss architects the Fossati brothers.As a result, the Hünkâr Mahfili (a separate prayer compartment for emperors) was removed and replaced with one near the mihrab.

Hagia Sofia Today

.Some Islamic religious leaders in the country called for the Hagia Sophia to be opened again as a mosque in 2013.Erdogan and Turkish officials reclassified it in July 2020 as a mosque.