Who hasn’t heard of Hagia Sophia? It often graces popular culture and has been featured in one of Dan Brown’s compelling novels, Inferno. It has also appeared in a popular video game, the Assassin’s Creed and a James Bond film entitled ‘From Russia with Love’.
Hagia Sophia is by far the largest dome in the world. Equal parts mystical, magnificent and historical, its grandeur encompasses the city of Istanbul and astounds visitors with its sheer colossal immensity. Its striking mosaics tells of the complexity of its structure that marks its journey from an Orthodox Cathedral Church to a remarkably designed Mosque to what is now a spellbinding massive museum.
Often Hagia Sophia’s name has been misattributed to a saint but translated to English, it means “Holy Wisdom”. Built in 360 AD, the Dome spans 56 meters high and over 31 meters across. A series of calamities, fires, earthquakes and the ravages of time left its mark on the building but it has continued to stand solidly with its original design remaining intact for almost 1500 years.
Plenty of remarkable events had taken place inside the Hagia Sophia, from the crowning of emperors to Ottoman Sultans offering their prayers inside it. Hagia Sophia is a complex structure that houses tombs, a fountain, a library and more. From the fascinating details of more than 30 million mosaics to the golden features of the added designs of the Mosque, the ancient building has kept its legends alive.
As a museum, the Hagia Sophia attracts more than a million visitors yearly. It’s considered as “one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture.” It’s an eclectic mix or collision of two cultures and religions, each leaving a mark on the structure such that it leaves one bedazzled. Its forty windows lining the base of the dome brings in bright natural light inside the colossal structure.
There are ancient tales of healing that Hagia Sophia has carried through the years. It contains two water wells that promises cure to the ill if you drank three times in a row on Saturdays. Its waters had been claimed to bring forth healing powers. Another source of enchantment is the Perspiring Column that stays consistently wet even on humid weather. Hagia Sophia continues to remain a delightful mystery as it ages over time.
Indeed, the multiple wells, tunnels and underground cisterns of this ancient structure continue to lend fascination over its underground secrets as well. Legends and stories will continue to swirl around one of Istanbul’s extraordinary dome. If you travel to Turkey, it’s imperative to take some time to explore the iconic Hagia Sophia and pay homage to the art, history and cultural diversity it offers to the modern traveler. Indulging in Hagia Sophia’s (or Ayasofia as its fondly known by locals) historical immersion is certainly one of the ways to marvel at one of the world’s mesmerizing structures!
Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
TL60 (US$10.25) for Adults
Children 8 and below are Free.
Daily: 9am - 5pm