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Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum

Aya Sofia or Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is another must-visit attraction that would blow your mind away. It served as a Byzantine Cathedral from 537-1204; a Roman Cathedral until 1261; a Greek Orthodox Cathedral through 1453; an Ottoman mosque until 1931; and then, it became a museum which we enjoy until today. 

I gasped when I visited the church turned mosque turned museum. It’s a mixture of historical and architectural wonders. It’s a wonderful blend of Roman, Ottoman, Islamic and Byzantine architectures – and I couldn’t help myself but gazed at every details of the interior that stood the test of history and war times. The towering dome is, in itself, a beauty that I’ve never seen anywhere – lightened up by its innumerable windows filtering the daylight.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia is just across the famed Blue Mosque in Sultahnamet area of Istanbul. You can’t skip one in favour of the other. These two are inseparable tourists destinations that you must see – once in your lifetime! 

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Reasons Why Hagia Sophia in Istanbul Blew My Mind Away

Here’s my list of 10 reasons why it blew my mind.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

1. It’s vast. Very vast. Imagine a museum that is, in fact, the building itself and the space it encompasses. From the floor to its walls to its ceilings – everything can be examined in detail. 

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

2. As I looked above my head, the light bleeding through the windows of the dome above showed me the touches of a Byzantine church vast enough to be dominated only by Seville Cathedral in 1520.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

3. I’ve travelled far and have seen churches of all kind, and like them, this museum depicted something true and authentic. This was particularly noted when I looked back at the Virgin Mary and the Child mosaics (see photo above) dating back to Eastern Orthodox Church’s time.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

4. The chandelier adorning the center of the building was an illustration of the Islamic art. That, itself, is a time-machine that could bring you back to eons ago. 

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

5. Islamic calligraphy has always fascinated me. Seeing the calligraphic name of the prominent Islamic figures and the verses from the Quran above my head took my breath away. 

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

6. The culmination of religions and their relevant art forms in one roof really awed me. It told tales of the possibility of peaceful co-existence.

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

7. There’s a Weeping Column inside Aya Sophia which you’ve got see. Legend has it that this column has a healing effect. It was believed that when King Justinian had a headache, he leaned his head on this column and realized later that the pain was gone. 

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

8. Two giant urns adorn the floor of the museum. Let’s not get into how they’re exquisitely made from marble, and the fact that they have an eerie shine.

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

9. Go up the stairs and find the upper gallery for a bird’s eye view of its massive interior. It’s an incredibly wonderful piece of history. The view of Blue Mosque and Topaki Palace from the windows breathed life into me.

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

10. For a fan of calligraphy, carved text is like hitting a jackpot. I hit it in Hagia Sophia.

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Aya Sophia in Istanbul: a Christian Basilica, a Mosque and a Museum (Turkey).

Where to Stay in Istanbul

If you’re a backpacker, HostelWorld has budget accommodations for you. For those who can afford medium-priced to expensive hotels, Booking.com has a lot of choices for you near the Hagia Sophia.

SEE TURKEY WITH INTREPID TRAVEL – Not a solo traveler? 

If solo traveling isn’t your turf, you should join Intrepid Travel around Turkey. They have different kinds of tours that suit every kind of traveler – from teenagers to families and seniors. They will certainly take care of all your travel needs which saves you time to do research about things do and see in Turkey.

 

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