The term Hagia Sophia is a Greek word which translates into the Church of the Holy Wisdom. An architectural beauty, it was referred to as “the eighth wonder of the world” by East Roman Philon as far back as the 6th century. Hagia Sophia has undergone three major reconstructions. At first, it was a church, then a mosque, and is now a museum at the Turkish Republic. Listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985, Hagia Sophia happens to be one of the most visited museums of the world.
Hagia Sophia is particularly significant as it had an important role to play, both during the reign of Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. The construction of the Hagia Sophia began on February 23, 532, under the personal supervision of Emperor Justinian I. For approximately nine hundred years, Hagia Sophia was the center of Orthodox Christianity. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the basilica is the first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture.
Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453 under Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. During the Ottoman reign, Hagia Sophia served as the principal mosque of Istanbul for approximately five hundred years. Other mosques such as Blue Mosque, Suleiman Mosque were modeled on it. In 1935, Hagia Sophia was converted into Ayasofya museum of Turkish Republic by the orders of Ataturk.
Istanbul was conquered by numerous civilizations; with each of them bringing their own culture to the city. Predominantly, Istanbul is influenced by both its Byzantine and Ottoman origins. Hagia Sophia is a perfect synthesis where one can observe the confluence of both these formative influences under one great dome.
How To Reach Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is located in Istanbul,Turkey. In order to access Hagia Sophia, tourists should take a flight to Turkey, which is well connected via air to the other countries of the world. Hagia Sophia is 20 km away from Istanbul International Airport. Hagia Sophia is located in the European part of the city in Sultanahmet area. The monument is quite close to the Topkapi palace. The closest tram station from Hagia Sophia is Sultanahmet station. For accommodation, travel enthusiasts recommend that tourists should opt for hotels in Sultanahmet, from where the monument is within walking distance.
Important Information About Hagia Sophia
• Timings: From 15th April to 1st October, the timings are 9am to 7pm with the last entry being at 6pm. Between 1st October and 15th April Hagia Sophia is open from 9am to 5pm with the last entry being at 4pm.
• Hagia Sophia is open on all days, except Mondays. It is also closed on the first days of Ramadan and Eid Ul Adha.
• Entrance Fee: Hagia Sophia entrance fee is 25 TL which comes to about 14 US Dollars or 10 Euro.
• Tickets: Though tickets can be purchased on the spot, it is advised to buy the tickets online so that you don’t have to wait in the queue for long hours.
For those interested in architectural masterpieces, Hagia Sophia definitely ought to be on your itinerary !