The greatest surviving example of Byzantine architecture and one of the eight wonders of the world, Hagia Sophia reigned as the greatest church in Christendom from the fourth century to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Once Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror had taken power, he promptly converted the church to a mosque, plastering over the extraordinary mosaics depicting Christ and his cohort and replacing them with images of the Prophet’s children. It was only in the 1930s, when the site was turned into a museum, that these dazzling original artworks were uncovered and refurbished. You can see them today—along with the site’s spectacularly ornate marble interiors, carved stone arches, and jaw-dropping (almost 183-foot-high) central dome.
If you’ve read accounts of the Sack of Constantinople, in 1204 (the Byzantine historian Nicetas Choniates described “weeping, lamentations, grief, wounds, rape, captivity...Oh, immortal God, how great the afflictions of the men, how great the distress!”), it’s amazing to realize that it all happened right here. Try not to let it get you down.
AmenitiesOpen / Closes
- Accessible by Public Transportation
- Open to General Public