Saint Sophia Church Museum

Saint Sophia Church (Hagia Sophia) represented Byzantine Rome, and it was the cathedral of the emperor.

It was the greatest church in Christian world for almost a thousand years and represented the highest achievements of the Roman Empire.

Haghia Sophia Church was erected and re-erected many times throughout centuries. A number of churches stood with the same name at the same place. They were either burnt down or destroyed by earthquakes.

There have been changes in the structure of the church through all those centuries, of course… The dome rests on pillars and it has been rebuilt several times.

Considering it is nearly 1500 years old and it stands atop one of the most active earthquake zones, these changes are totally normal…

Did you know?

In 1317, a series of buttresses were added to fortify the structure when there was a danger of collapse.

The original dome almost crushed the whole building because the supporting walls were not strong enough.

Good to know before you get in:

  • The four minarets of Hagia Sophia were added to the building at various times after the conquest.
  • The fortifications on the exterior were built by Sinan, the Chief Architect, during the reign of Sultan Selim II (1566-77) when the church started to represent signs of destruction. Two identical minarets were added during this fortification process.
  • Saint Sophia (Hagia Sophia) Church is considered to be one of the architectural wonders of the world.
  • The Hagia Sophia Church (Saint Sophia) that we know was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian on the foundations of a previous church. To be exact, the construction was finished on 26 December AD 537.
  • Emperor Justinian's cathedral was crowned by the largest dome ever constructed which is the source of its great fame. And it held that record over a thousand years, until the construction of St Peter's Cathedral in Rome, in 1626.
  • The dome is slightly elliptical. The east-west diameter is nearly 31 m. and the North-south diameter is nearly 33 m. The crown of the dome rises 56 m. above the floor.
  • All of the biblical treasures and other valuable artifacts in Hagia Sophia Church were lost in 1204, when Christendom's Fourth Crusade invaded the city. The crusaders ripped the city apart, carried off everything valuable including the ones in Saint Sophia Church.
  • The church has been fortified and repaired on several occasions during both the Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Empire periods.

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Necessary info about Saint Sophia:

Where exactly?:

You can see it at the North-east corner of Sultanahmet Square.


Sultanahmet Square

Opening Hours:

Open daily between 09:00-19:30, except Mondays.

Entrance fee: TL 20 (~ 10 Euro, 13 Dollars)

Get in and witness the grandeur feeling!

Looking at this magnificent monument from the outside is not enough; you should see the interior and feel the spaciousness for yourself.

Fourty windows below the dome lets the light in the building and makes the interior seem differently at different times of the day.

The interior of Hagia Sophia is beautifully decorated. A great variety of rare and beatiful marbles were used for the revetments of the piers and walls.

You can walk around the upper gallery and see the paintings and exquisite mosaics of Saints which are considered to among world’s art treasures and cultural heritage.

Mosaics, paintings, the giant dome and the light-infused interior have been a great inspiration for places of worship for centuries.

Remember, to fully understand the historical context and the importance of Saint Sophia Church (Hagia Sophia), you’d better see other remnants of Roman Empire like cisterns, Hippodrome etc, which are very close. This makes it easier to fully appreciate the engineering and urban planning in Roman Empire.

When Constantinople was conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the Conqueror, it was converted to a mosque.

Today it serves as a museum, open to people of all faiths.

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