The Hagia Sophia is a historical museum in Istanbul. It was a basilica-planned patriarchal cathedral built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. in the former city center on the historical peninsula of Istanbul between 532-537. After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans in 1453, Sultan Mehmet the Conquerer transformed it into a mosque. Since 1935, it has been serving as a museum. Hagia Sophia is a domed basilica type building that combines the basilica plan and the central plan in architectural terms and is considered as an important turning point in the history of architecture with the features of the dome passage and the supporting system.
The word “aya” (hagia) in the name of Hagia Sophia comes from the word “holy, saint”, “sofia”, not the name of any one, but sophos in ancient Greek meaning “wisdom”. Thus, the name “aya sofya” means “holy wisdom” or “divine wisdom” and is considered one of the three qualities of God in the Orthodox sect. The famous scientists of the 6th century, the physicist Milied Isidoros and the Trallesian mathematician Anthemius conducted the construction of the structure. It is said that about 10,000 workers worked in the construction and that Justinian spent a great deal of money on this business. A feature of this very old building is that some of the columns, doors and stones used in its construction were brought from ancient buildings and temples.
During the Byzantine period, the Hagia Sophia had a great wealth of “sacred relics”. One of these relics is the 15-meter-high Silver Iconostasis. The Hagia Sophia, the patriarchal church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the center of the Orthodox Church for a thousand years, witnessed the excommunication of Patriarch I. Mikhail Kiroularios I. in 1054 by Pope IX. Leo.
After the church was converted to a mosque in 1453, mosaics of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, the mosaics with human figures were not destroyed (they were left as they were), however, the mosaics were covered with thin plaster and plastered for centuries, as it is not proper to worship in a mosque where there are human figures, so, they were able to survive naturally under the plaster. While the mosque was transformed into a museum, a part of the plaster was removed and the mosaics were again taken to daylight. The Hagia Sophia building, which is seen today, is also known as the Third Haghia Sophia since it was the third church built in the same time. The first two churches collapsed during the rebellions. The central dome of Hagia Sophia, the largest dome of the period, collapsed many times during the Byzantine period and never collapsed again since Sinan the Architect added the retaining walls to the building.
Standing for 15 centuries, this building is among the prominent works of the art history and the world of architecture and became a symbol of the Byzantine architecture with its big dome. The Hagia Sophia is distinguished from other cathedrals by the following features:
It is the oldest cathedral in the world.
It has been the largest cathedral in the world for about a thousand years (until the completion of the construction of Seville Cathedral in Spain in 1520) from the time it was built. Today, it is fourth in terms of acreage.
It is the fastest-built cathedral in the world (built in 5 years).
It is one of longest-running (15 centuries) temples.
The dome is considered the fourth largest dome in terms of diameter among the “old cathedral” domes.