Located in the heart of Istanbul is a living testimony of its wildly fascinating past as the coveted capital city of three great empires. The Hagia Sophia, the most distinguished landmark of Istanbul, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s greatest monuments. Constructed thrice in the same location, the Hagia Sophia was rebuilt from a destroyed church into its current magnificence. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian visualised the majestic structure, and the then Church of Holy Wisdom was built and was the world’s largest cathedral for a millennium.
When Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) fell to the Ottomans in the mid-fifteenth century, the Cathedral was converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. Aya Sofya became the first imperial mosque of Istanbul, and then began the restoration and renovation of the Hagia Sophia Mosque. Buttresses were added to prevent collapses along with several structures, like the four minarets, mihrab, rostrum, minbar, shadirvans, madrassa, library, and imaret. All Christian symbols on the interiors were hidden away and were covered by Islamic symbols and stunning Ottoman décor.
Hagia Sophia was not a simple mosque, but a heritage of humanity that was preserved and magnified into a stunning architectural marvel. It was in 1934 that the Hagia Sophia Mosque became a ‘memorial’ museum as per the new Turkish state’s secular beliefs. A turning point in the Hagia Sophia Mosque history came again in 2020 when it was reconverted back into a mosque.
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