After being used as a church for 916 years, the church was converted into a mosque after Constantinople was conquered in 1453. Perhaps it was tolerance, an interest in cultural heritage, or respect for other beliefs, but the church’s conversion into a mosque shied away from destroying Christian artifacts. Instead, the Christian mosaics, drawings and icons were preserved through either removing them into storage or covering them up. Used as a mosque until 1935, Hagia Sophia now stands as a museum and an evidence of two religions coexisting in one space.
There is much to see outside Hagia Sophia too: Sultan mausoleums (Sultan Mustafa Ist’s and Sultan Ibrahim’s were converted from baptisteries), an Ottoman elementary school, fountain and many more, alongside a little café where you can take a little break.
You can learn more about Hagia Sophia from here.
We also recommend Murat Belge’s Istanbul Travel Guide (İstanbul Gezi Rehberi) - if you can manage to find an English copy- to continue learning interesting details about the city.
With the latest excavation findings, and knowing that the ruins of two former churches still lay under it, Hagia Sophia stands as an archeological giving tree, which makes us think that what we have found so far is just the beginning.
Take care of yourselves,
Tracer of Istanbul