Hagia Sophia is an impressive structure in the Sultanahmet District of Istanbul on the European side of the City. Sultanahmet holds many of the city’s major landmarks and there are numerous excellent hotels, bars and restaurants for refreshments, lunchtime and evening, to cater for the numbers of tourists that visit each year.
History Of Hagia Sophia
When, in 1453, the Ottomans finally took Constantinople, as it was then, among the ‘treasures’’ that they found was Hagia Sophia. It had stood for 900 years, the largest cathedral in the world at that time.
Hagia Sophia immediately became the main mosque in the City when the Ottomans took over. Minarets and internal Islamic symbols were added and are there for tourists to see today. The construction of the Blue Mosque nearby in 1616 reduced its importance.
Hagia Sophia survived the centuries of Ottoman rule. A few years after the establishment of the Turkey in 1923, it was closed temporarily. This Holy Wisdom reopened as a museum in 1935 and ever since has received a huge number of visitors.
Hagia Sophia As Museum
It was only when Hagia Sophia became a museum that the frescoes that are one of the highlights for today’s visitors were revealed once more. They can be seen when tourists go up the flight of stairs into the Upper Gallery where there are a number of pictures and other exhibits to look at.
Its main external feature is the great dome and it is regarded as a wonderful example of Byzantine architecture. The region is prone to earthquakes and that has caused problems to Hagia Sophia over the years, especially because of the height and size of the dome. It once collapsed completely, but that was many years ago, and it was subsequently modified.
The building continues to need attention, especially the dome, and in recent years there was internal reinforced while the work progressed. Worship is not allowed currently though there is a small room that the Government has designated for Christian and Muslim prayer and the ‘’call to prayer’’ is sung twice a day from the minarets.
Transport and Accommodation
Tourists visiting Istanbul have a choice of two different international airports. Istanbul Ataturk on the European side and Sabiha Gokcen on the ever-expanding Asian side across the Bosphorus from Hagia Sophia.
The trip into the European Centre of Istanbul from Sabiha Gokcen can take time due to the City’s traffic and that should be borne in mind when deciding on hotel accommodation and leaving sufficient time to get to and from the airport.
Istanbul Ataturk is far more convenient with a metro system into Taksim Square, the popular night time venue in Istanbul, as well as buses and metered taxis.
While traffic, especially on the European side, is very hectic, tourists avoiding the morning and evening rush hours should be able to get to Hagia Sophia quite easily on public transport or by taxi at minimal cost.
Hagia Sophia was built in the sixth century by the Emperor Justinian. This church remained the largest church in the world for over a thousand years. This church used to be an important place for the Romans during their reign. When the Ottomans captured the area, they converted this church into a mosque and the place still bears a lot of signs of Muslim architecture such as minarets and fountains.
There are likely to be queuing to get into Hagia Sophia. If you join at the back, they move fairly quickly until you reach a booth where you buy a ticket and proceed to the entrance. Once inside there is no time limit for your stay other than the restriction of opening hours. Summer 0900 – 1900, last entry allowed at 1800, winter 0900 – 1700, last entry 1600. The current price is around $12.
The place remained a mosque till 1935 and after that it was converted into a museum. There are numerous Christian artifacts, including some of the Last Supper, cross of crucifixion and other items that belonged to Jesus. The walls of the church are covered with different kinds of mosaics and marbles. Apart from historic artifacts the place also has mausoleums of Sultans and beautiful gardens that you can visit while touring the place.
A Great Place for Lunch
There are plenty of alternatives for eating. Perhaps the best choice for lunch is just a minute’s walk from Hagia Sophia. Sultanahmet Koftesi opened in 1920 and in some ways, it is a ‘’fast food restaurant’’ serving koftas and salad, fresh bread and non-alcoholic drinks and tea to every customer. It is busy, but the tables quickly become available and time is no enemy on holiday.