Aya Sofia or Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is another must-visit attraction that would blow your mind away. It served as a Byzantine Cathedral from 537-1204; a Roman Cathedral until 1261; a Greek Orthodox Cathedral through 1453; an Ottoman mosque until 1931; and then, it became a museum which we enjoy until today.
I gasped when I visited the church turned mosque turned museum. It’s a mixture of historical and architectural wonders. It’s a wonderful blend of Roman, Ottoman, Islamic, and Byzantine architectures – and I couldn’t help but gaze at every detail of the interior that stood the test of history and war times. The towering dome is a beauty that I’ve never seen anywhere – lightened up by its innumerable windows filtering the daylight.
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque, and a Museum
Hagia Sophia is just across from the famed Blue Mosque in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul. You can’t skip one in favor of the other. These two are inseparable tourist destinations you must see – once in your lifetime!
Reasons Why Hagia Sophia in Istanbul Blew My Mind Away
Here’s my list of 10 reasons why it blew my mind.
1. It’s vast. Very vast. Imagine a museum that is, in fact, the building itself and the space it encompasses. Everything can be examined in detail, from the floor to its walls to its ceilings.
2. As I looked above my head, the light bleeding through the windows of the dome above showed me the touches of a Byzantine church vast enough to be dominated only by Seville Cathedral in 1520.
3. I’ve traveled far and have seen churches of all kinds, and like them, this museum depicted something genuine and authentic. This was particularly noted when I looked back at the Virgin Mary and the Child mosaics (see photo above) dating back to Eastern Orthodox Church’s time.
4. The chandelier adorning the center of the building was an illustration of Islamic art. That, itself, is a time machine that could bring you back to eons ago.
5. Islamic calligraphy has always fascinated me. Seeing the calligraphic name of the prominent Islamic figures and the verses from the Quran above my head took my breath away.
6. The culmination of religions and their relevant art forms under one roof awed me, and it told tales of the possibility of peaceful co-existence.
7. There’s a Weeping Column inside Aya Sophia, which you’ve got to see. Legend has it that this column has a healing effect. It was believed that when King Justinian had a headache, he leaned his head on this column and realized later that the pain was gone.
8. Two giant urns adorn the floor of the museum. Let’s not get into how they’re exquisitely made from marble and the fact that they have an eerie shine.
9. Go up the stairs and find the upper gallery for a bird’s eye view of its massive interior. It’s an incredibly wonderful piece of history. The views of the Blue Mosque and Topaki Palace from the windows breathed life into me.
10. For a fan of calligraphy, the carved text is like hitting the jackpot, and I hit it in Hagia Sophia.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
How to Save Time and Money in Istanbul
If solo traveling isn’t your turf, you should join a guided tour if you have little time in the city and want less hassle. Istanbul can be overwhelming for first-time visitors, and the views, people, smells, sounds, and tastes have their way of charming your complete senses. There are so many things and places to discover here! Make sure to list down which ones you want to see first.