Friday, January 7, 2011

Exploring Istanbul: Hagia Sophia

Picture taken August 2008

The Church of Holy Wisdom, known as Hagia Sophia in Greek, and Aya Sofya in Turkish, is a former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. It was converted to a museum, by Ataturk(Mustafa Kemal). The place is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world.
Today,unfortunately nothing remains of the original Hagia Sophia, which was built on this site in the fourth century by Constantine the Great. Constantine was the first Christian Emperor and the founder of the city of Constantinople, which he called "the New Rome."The Church burned down during the Nika riots in 532. later on the church got built by supervision of Emperor Justinian I.

In 1204 the Ayasofya was sacked and stripped down to the bare bones by the Crusaders, a desecration that robbed the church of precious relics and definitively divided the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Many of Hagia Sophia's riches can be seen today in the treasury of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.
Despite this setback, Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until Tuesday, May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and decided to convert the cathedral into his imperial mosque.

In 1934, under Turkish president Kemal Atatürk, Hagia Sofia was secularized and turned into the Ayasofya Museum. The prayer rugs were removed, revealing the marble beneath, but the mosaics remained largely plastered over and the building was allowed to decay for some time. Some of the calligraphic panels were moved to other mosques, but eight roundels were left and can still be seen today.

The Entrance fee is 20 Lira(17USD). The Museum is only closed on Mondays.For Turks, currently if you buy a Gold Museum card for 20 lira you can visit any museum.

( Repost from husband's blog: Hagia Sophia )

Daddy Cihangir and Kylie, Picture taken December 2010

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