Hagia Sophia is the national landmark of Turkey, located at the center of the capital Istanbul. It was built by the Roman empire as the basilica in 537 AD, and has survived through various transformations. Around 3.47 million tourists visited the landmark in 2015, making it the most popular tourist site in the entire Turkey.
10 Interesting Facts
- Hagia Sophia was originally built as the Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal Basilica in 537 AD by the Byzantine Roman empire during the reign of Jutinian I.
- It was converted into a mosque by the Mehmed the Conquerer of Ottomon empire in 1453. It remained a mosque until 1931, and was opened as a museum in 1935 by the Republic of Turkey.
- The original church on the site of the Hagia Sophia is said to have been built by Constantine I in 325 on the foundations of a pagan temple. It was damaged in 404 by a fire that erupted during a riot following the second banishment of St. John Chrysostom, then patriarch of Constantinople. It was rebuilt and enlarged by the Roman emperor Constans I. The restored building was rededicated in 415 by Theodosius II. The church was burned again in the Nika insurrection of January 532.
- The four minarets surrounding the main dome was later added by the Ottomon empire. One minaret was built out of red bricks while the other three were built of white limestone and sandstone.
- The main structure; the porphyry columns came from Rome and the marble columns came from Ephesus. Marble in varied colors, alabaster, and onyx were cut, fitted, piered, and veneered to cover walls and pavements in geometric patterns. It was built by the Greek architects, Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus.
- The Blue Mosque and Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul were designed with an inspiration of Hagia Sophia.
- To fortify (and beautify) the interior of the church, columns from the long-abandoned and destroyed Temple of Artemis in Ephesus were used for the Hagia Sophia. Additional building materials may also have come from ancient sites in Baalbeck and Pergamom.
- Also called the “sweating column,” the “wishing column,” and the “perspiring column,” the weeping column stands in the northwest portion of the church and is one of 107 columns in the building. The alleged blessing of St. Gregory has led many to rub the column in search of divine healing.
- It was enlisted in the world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.
- Over 3 million tourists visit the landmark every year, making it the most visited tourist site in Turkey.