The Istanbul Diaries: Hagia Sophia

Where do I even start?
There were just so many interesting places to see in Istanbul. It’s mind boggling, especially when it’s your first time there. R and I decided we wanted to cover a mix of famous landmarks (because they’re famous for a reason, right?) and a little random exploring.
Our first destination was the ever famous Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya in Tukish.
This beautiful landmark has been a museum since 1935, but it has quite the colorful history. It was a Christian cathedral for 916 years, then later renovated and used as a mosque for 482 years. You can read about the long history here but I can tell you, this landmark has seen a whole lot of change.
The original church was completed in 360 during the reign of Constantius II, although it was his father, Constantine the Great, who ordered it to be built. I learned that this original church burned down during the riots of 404. A second church was built during the reign of Theodosius the Great, which later also burned down during another riot in 532. So it’s actually the structure of the third church, built under Emperor Justinian I in 537, which still stands today.
After reading a little into the history of Constantinople, I am amazed Hagia Sophia actually withstood all the riots and occasional earthquakes that came thereafter. But thank goodness it did because Hagia Sophia is a beauty. The exterior is light and shades of pastel pink and blue, whereas the interior is very dark and gold. To me, it felt very masculine inside.
It’s said that when Justinian I saw the completed Hagia Sophia, he exclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone thee!” Despite the restoration and conservation work still underway inside Hagia Sophia (you can’t really see it in the photos but the left side of the ground floor was full of scaffolding), I have to agree, it is fabulously grand.
R and I borrowed an audio guide at the entrance and slowly walked around the grounds, breathing in the rich history of Hagia Sophia.
Here are a few photos of what we saw:

Hagia Sophia Square, Sultanahmet Fatih, Istanbul, TURKEY
TEL: +90 (212) 522 17 50
HOURS: Summer 9:00am-7:00pm (final entry 6pm)
             Winter 9:00am-5:00pm (final entry 4pm)
FEE: 30 Turkish Lira
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8 thoughts on “The Istanbul Diaries: Hagia Sophia”

  1. I feel as if I have taken a step along the nearest reaches of the silk road. But with that first step I have also tumbled down a rabbit hole into a vast and wondrous cavern that holds marvelous works of old that have been patinated with layers of years on top of decades within centuries that are fragrant with the heavy incense of time. Time that swirls in a maelstrom of past touching and being touched by the eddies of now.

    I received a book of drawings today done by the writer of one of my favorite stories in the Tales from the Expat Harem, Trici Venola. One of the drawings is here. She says about Istanbul in the introduction: “Istanbul has astonishing visuals, and it’s changing at lightning speed… This eternal city is often called a bridge, but it’s really a center, a vortex,a crossroads, a catalyst: a concentration of power that generates out into the world. And so I have stayed.”

    Really moving photos up there, Kaori.

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  2. Beautiful place. Probably too many people there for my liking but hope to visit someday. I'm still trying to visit a mosque someday. Have a coworker who said he'd take me if I asked. Sri Lankan mosque. Probably simple but they can be the most interesting.

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  3. It actually didn't feel very crowded, probably because it is no longer a mosque so you can walk around everywhere. And the building itself is quite large. But yes, it is a primary tourist spot. I think we were lucky to not have to wait in a line.

    Is the Sri Lankan mosque in Japan? I'd only been to the one in Yoyogi…now I can't even remember how many I've been to. I think the only public bathrooms I used in Turkey were the ones at mosques…so a lot, probably 😀

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  4. If I ever decide to go to a Sri Lankan mosque, I'll let you know. Probably Ru too. I'm guessint it might not be that interesting to be honest. Probably just a small room or a floor of a building. Might be beautiful inside though. Not sure how they handle men and women and if they are separated or such. Just need to ask someday when I feel like going. 🙂

    Maybe if Ru checks, she'll smack me to ask. 😉

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