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!