Haghia Sophia or Aya Sofya (Saint Wisdom) (Istanbul)

Haghia Sophia or Aya Sofya (Saint Wisdom)

Haghia Sophia also spelled as Aya Sofya is a former Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the center of Istanbul. Its name is translated from Greek as 'Divine Wisdom'.




Ayasofya Meydanı, Sultanahmet, Istanbul

Tel. (0212) 522 1750

Trolley: Sultanahmet

Open: 9:15am– 4:30pm Tue–Sun


Description of Haghia Sophia

Haghia Sophia  Haghia Sophia  Haghia Sophia or Aya Sofya (Saint Wisdom)  Haghia Sophia or Aya Sofya (Saint Wisdom)  Haghia Sophia or Aya Sofya (Saint Wisdom)

The first church on this spot was found by ancient Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in 330 on a site of an ancient Greek acropolis. However it burned down just 75 years later. New church was rebuild by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Construction of the new Haghia Sophia began in 532. It was consecrated in 537 and for almost thousand years it served as the main cathedral for the Byzantine Empire. The last Christian service was held on May 28, 1453. The next day Constantinople fell to the invading Ottoman Turkish forces and Hagia Sophia was turned into a Muslim mosque.

New owners of Hagia Sophia removed crosses, damaged some frescoes and mosaics and added four tall minarets or prayer towers on four side of the building. Later Turks added buttresses to secure medieval church. In 1934 Haghia Sophia was turned into a museum. Today you can enter Haghia Sophia from the South Gate through a small courtyard that also contains an exhibition of artefacts discovered during archaeological digs around the church. Five doors lead to the porch of the old basilica that is decorated with marble and gold mosaics. Another nine doors lead to the interior of Hagia Sophia Cathedral. Most of these doors were preserved since the time of Justinian.

Interior of Haghia Sophia is just magnificent Huge ceiling and the walls of the church are covered by frescoes and mosaics. The central dome replaced the original dome, what collapsed during an earthquake after its construction. This new Dome lets plenty of light through 40 windows inside this huge structure. When the Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque Turkish officials ordered construction of two marble fountains with drinking water as well as four mimbara for Quran recitation. Additionally they hanged eight large medallions in Arabic script with written name of Allah (God), the Prophet Muhammad, the first caliph and sons of Ali. Just outside of Haghia Sophia you can also notice five tombs of Ottoman sultans or rules of the Ottoman Turkish Empire.