Hagia Sophia Facts With Questions And Answers

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Hagia Sophia Panoramic Photography

Hagia Sophia Facts With Questions And Answers

Hagia Sophia is one of the architectural marvels of the world. The outstanding building was originally designed as a church. Built by the mighty Byzantine Emperor Justinianus. Anthemios and Isidoros of Anatolia appointed as the master architects. Major questions related to Hagia Sophia answered in this blog post.

Is The Hagia Sophia Still A Church Or A Mosque?

The simple answer is no. It was initially built as a church in 537.  Then it was proclaimed a mosque in 1453, following the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans. Eventually Hagia Sophia became a museum in 1934.

It was used as a church for nearly 916 years and again 481 years as a mosque. Such a history! So there are a lot of questions to ask.

For More Information: Is The Hagia Sophia Still A Mosque or Church?

Welcoming Entrance Of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia
Where Is Hagia Sophia Located?

Where Is Hagia Sophia Located?

Where Is The Hagia Sophia Located?

The Hagia Sophia is located in present day Istanbul, Turkey. However the name of the city was Constantinople when the church was built. The Roman Emperor Constantine built the city on the remnants of Greek state Byzantium.

For More Information: Where Is The Hagia Sophia Located?

Why Is The Hagia Sophia So Imporant?

There are several answers to this question. First of all, it was the largest structure in the world, when it was built in 537. Moreover it had been as the largest temple of the world for more than a thousand years. Up until the Saint Peter’s Basilica was re-constructed (on a large scale) in 1626.

For More Information: Why Is The Hagia Sophia So Imporant?

Who built the Hagia Sophia and When?

Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire built the Hagia Sophia in five years from 532 to 537. He was a devout Christian just like his wife, Theodora. She also built a church: Church Of Sergius Bacchus which is also known as Little Hagia Sophia.

Amazing Architecture Of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia Architecture

Incredible architectural features of Hagia Sophia.

Who converted the Hagia Sophia Into A Mosque?

Fatih Sultan Mehmed or better known as Mehmed the Conqueror. He was a muslim emperor so he wanted to provide this great temple as worshipping place to his people. They kept most of the churches and let the locals pray in those churches. Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was also maintained by the Ottomans.

Information Panels In The Hagia Sophia’s Interior
Is The Hagia Sophia Still A Mosque? Or A Church?

Information panel that depicts Hagia Sophia as A Mosque © Serhat Engul

How Come The Mosaics Still There Despite The Fact That It Had Been A Mosque?

A very good question. This is also related to some current problems of the world or the perceptions of the world towards Islam. Ottoman Sultans never destroyed the mosaics; because Jesus, Mary and John mentioned in Quran. Therefore Ottomans had a very good reason to show respect to these fundamental figures of Christianity. Individual cases does not count. Some Ottoman people might have behaved like bigots but not the well-educated Sultans and majority of the Istanbul folk. Ottoman Istanbul had 1/3 non-muslims.

Were The Mosaics Kept Open During The Ottoman period?

No. Ottoman rulers paid respect to Christian subjects and their symbols. Otherwise we would not be able to see the mosaics still today. However, Islam does not tolerate any human depictions in the mosques. Therefore the Ottomans covered the faces of the Seraphim Angels or mosaics to adhere the religious rules.

Hagia Sophia’s Most Famous Mosaic Deesis
deesis-byzantine-mosaic

Most famous Byzantine Mosaic of all: Deesis © Serhat Engul

Who Converted Hagia Sophia Into A Museum And When?

Ottoman Empire which lasted from 1299 to 1923, collapsed following the World War I. The Ottomans lived in Istanbul from 1453 (Fall Of Constantinople) to the 1923 and used the Hagia Sophia as a mosque.

When Turkish Republic is established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Former Officer In The Ottoman Army) The Ataturk made educational, legislative and cultural reforms as new president. He introduced Latin alphabet to the people, instead of Arabic letters. He  established the parliament of Turkey, gave comprehensive rights to women and abolished the monarchy.

After all, he decided to convert the Hagia Sophia into a museum. The Ataturk (Means father of Turks) thought that the Hagia Sophia is the common heritage of the people of the world.

Turkish parliament accepted and approved the offer, thereafter invited archaeologists and art historians from United States. Thomas Wittermore, head of Byzantine Institute of United States, and his collegues worked for 10 years to reveal the old mosaics. Thus Islamic and Christian relics can be seen together in Hagia Sophia of today.

Hagia Sophia’s World Famous Dome

hagia-sophia-dome

Why The Dome Of Hagia Sophia So Famous In Architectural World?

Because the architects not only built the highest dome ever, but they actually built two domes to cover the Hagia Sophia. There is one full dome and two semi domes. This is simply brilliance!

Although the central dome was very large, it did not reflect the grandeur of the building. Therefore, they did something for the first time in history in order to make the dome look larger. They built two semi domes next to the central dome. These two semi domes not only create huge extra space but also support the central dome by pressurizing to the sides. These semi domes are also supported by quarter domes and covering main carrier walls in a classy way.

Why The Hagia Sophia And Blue Mosque Looks Similar To Each Other?

This incredible idea was later on used in Ottoman mosques. The best example is Blue Mosque, located next to Hagia Sophia. When we look at the mosque outside, we see cascading domes just like Hagia Sophia. Best of the Ottoman architects Mimar Sinan, claimed that he spent his lifetime to surpass the wisdom of Hagia Sophia and he managed to do it in Selimiye Mosque which is located Edirne, Turkey.

Further Information: Imperial Ottoman Mosques Of Istanbul

Imperial Mosques Of Istanbul City
Mosques of Istanbul

Mosques of Istanbul look similar to Hagia Sophia © Serhat Engul

Is Hagia Sophia’s Interior Or Exterior More Interesting?

It looks like the other mosques of Istanbul, because of the above explanation. The inside of the building definitely much more interesting because of its hybrid culture. It had been a church and a mosque so Christian Mosaics and Islamic Relics hold on together. Besides the dome of Hagia Sophia is world famous, because the height of the dome from the ground is exceptional. The dome of Hagia Sophia is exactly 56 metres from the ground and the width is 32 metres.

These measures were just unimaginable for that time. Brave architects tried to achieve the impossible and they did. However first dome is collapsed. You may check the Architecture Of Hagia Sophia article for details. (Link at the bottom)

Hagia Sophia’s Interior Decoration And Altar
Coronation Area In Hagia Sophia: Omphalion

Christian and Islamic Icons and Relics stands together in Hagia Sophia © Serhat Engul

Further Recommended Reading:

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By Official Tour Guide Serhat

serhateng@gmail.com

Whats App: + 90 532 256 93 12

Hagia Sophia Private Tour With A Local Guide

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