22 Şubat 2014 Cumartesi

This is Just the Beginning

Hagia Sophia 

Considered to be the most significant example of Byzantine architecture, Hagia Sophia was built on the grounds of two former churches. The remains of these older churches were extracted during an archeological excavation in 1935 and the findings are currently exhibited in the museum’s garden. While it is presumed that there are more artifacts from this time under the church, these excavations were cancelled in fear of damaging the church’s foundation.


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.  

As the museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in town, we recommend you visit Hagia Sophia early in the morning. Covered in interesting details (even within stone walls), the museum also has its own celebrity living on the grounds: The Hagia Sophia cat! You can check out the famous cat’s blog here, and also take a look at the beautiful pictures of the museum. One other famous spot in the museum is the “wishing stone”, in which you can insert your thumb and rotate it a full round to make a wish.  

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

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