Sharing two Empires




March 2010 • Canon 40D camera
July 2015 •Canon 60D camera

UNESCO World Heritage site
Historic Areas of Istanbul


Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul

The Hagia Sophia has had a very interesting and rich history between two Empires. Originally built as a church, it then became a mosque and is now a museum in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia started out as a Christian Church in 537 AD. It was the largest building a the time in what was historically the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. In 1453, it was converted to a mosque, when Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II captured Constantinople. Under the Ottoman Empire, the name Constantinople was officially changed to Istanbul. When the Ottoman Empire fell, the Republic of Turkey was formed, the Hagia Sophia became a museum in 1935.

It is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. As with the Blue Mosque, the real star of the building is the massive dome and semi-domes. Standing inside at the bottom looking up, you wonder how did they manage to build such a large dome during that time. The interior was filled with Byzantine mosaics, some of which have survived to this day. These Christian mosaics sit side by side with the Islamic calligraphy in the building.


July 2015

Interior - ground floor

July 2015

Interior - Upper Gallery

July 2015

Did you know...

The current building of the Hagia Sophia is in fact the third Church to be built on the site. There were previously 2 other Churches, the first built in 360 and the second in 415, both of which was destroyed. There are still blocks of the second Church outside the Hagia Sophia.


March 2010


March 2010

Final thoughts

It really was a fascinating building to visit and spend time exploring. It was interesting to look out for the Christian mosaics dotted around the building. It can get very busy as it is the major tourist attraction in Istanbul.

Unlike the Blue Mosque, you will need to queue and pay to get inside. In 2010, I paid 20TL for tickets and in 2015, I paid 30TL. If you plan to visit during the high season of summer, you will encounter large queues so try to get there early.

Explore more of Turkey

View all articles for Turkey

Related Articles

Back to full list of destinations