Istanbul is unique. It is the only city in the world where two continents meet. Enjoy old and new in the cultural capital of Turkey with Istanbul expert Marc Guillet

Hagia Sophia regains some former glory

Posted on 15 August 2011

Hagia Sophia regains some of its former glory. Photo: Slawomira Kozieniec

A visit to Istanbul is not complete without visiting the splendid Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya in Turkish). Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have changed the history of architecture.

The Eastern Orthodox Church of the Holy Wisdom – built by the Roman Emperor Justinian (527-565) – remained the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

In 1453 it became the most splendid mosque after Mehmet II conquered Constantinople and turned the church into a mosque. In 1935, the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, transformed the building into a museum.

The interior of the Hagia Sophia was meant to be a reflection of heavenly paradise. Unfortunately for the last 17 years scaffolding up to the 56 meter high dome destroyed much of the magnificent space that this splendid building offers.

The good news is that the scaffolding is finally gone. The restoration of the dome has been completed. The eight 19th century canvasses – made of wood and leather – with the names of Allah, the Prophet Mohammed and the first four caliphs were restored too. As well as the chandeliers and stained-glass windows. And a face of one of the four seraphs was uncovered.

I was stunned when I entered the Hagia Sophia for the first time after the removal of the scaffolding and all the other reconstruction and restoration material. I have to say that the church has finally regained some of its former glory. Many tourists who will visit this magnificent building will agree with me. Check it out!

One response to “Hagia Sophia regains some former glory”

  1. Truth says:

    In 1453 Sultan Mehmed laid siege to Constantinople, driven in part by a desire to convert the city to Islam.[22] The Sultan promised his troops three days of unbridled pillage if the city fell, after which he would claim its contents himself.[23][24] Hagia Sophia was not exempted from the pillage, becoming its focal point as the invaders believed it to contain the greatest treasures of the city.[25] Shortly after the city’s defenses collapsed, pillagers made their way to the Hagia Sophia and battered down its doors.[26] Throughout the siege worshipers participated in the Holy Liturgy and Prayer of the Hours at the Hagia Sophia, and the church formed a refuge for many of those who were unable to contribute to the city’s defense.[27][28] Trapped in the church, congregants and refugees became booty to be divided amongst the invaders. The building was desecrated and looted, and occupants enslaved or slaughtered;[25] a few of the elderly and infirm were killed, and the remainder chained.[26] Priests continued to perform Christian rites until stopped by the invaders.[26] When the Sultan and his cohort entered the church he insisted it should be at once transformed into a mosque. One of the Ulama then climbed the pulpit and recited the Shahada.[21][29]

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