Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul


Hagia Sophia (Hagia Sophia) - one of the most visited attractions of Istanbul. It attracts tourists with its unique architecture, magnificent mosaics and special energy, so strong that it seems that you are immersed in a different reality, where different historical epochs coexist. The Arabic script is adjacent to the symbols of Christianity, and they, in no way mixing, mutually complement each other.

Basic moments

The monumental building of Hagia Sophia, located in the historical center of Istanbul, in the Sultanahmet district, is surrounded by four slender minarets, which makes it especially recognizable. Over the 1,500 years of its existence, first the Patriarchal Orthodox Cathedral, then a mosque, and now the museum, which is an outstanding monument of Byzantine architecture, retained its luxurious decoration, and this despite the fact that its extraordinary fate was rich not only in solemn, but also tragic pages .

The Hagia Sophia of Constantinople, as it is also called, is the personification of the "golden age" of the Byzantine Empire. Often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, it bears great architectural and historical value and in 1985 was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. With its regular rectangular shape, Hagia Sophia resembles a classical basilica, whose dome, supported in the corners by huge 24-meter columns, seems to soar in the air. The walls of the former temple remember numerous reconstructions and repairs, and no one can name how many people hid and prayed behind them during the hours of disasters.

Currently, discussions about turning this symbol of Byzantium and the Istanbul business card back into a mosque are gaining popularity on social networks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initially opposed this idea, but in March 2019, in an interview with TRT television company, he expressed a different position, noting that if tourists of all faiths can visit the Sultanahmet Mosque located nearby, better known as the Blue Mosque, for free, then Hagia Sophia can do the same. It is difficult to say when this will happen and whether it will happen at all, but if this happens, then non-Muslim men, not to mention women, are unlikely to be able to be in the church during worship services. In the meantime, everything remains as it is, and everyone can visit the Cathedral of St. Sophia - the Wisdom of God (this is another name for the attraction), regardless of gender and religion.

History of Hagia Sophia

At first, at the place where Hagia Sophia now rises (in ancient times, Augusteon market square was located here) there was a temple of the pagan goddess Artemis, which stood until 360. Then the Roman emperor Constantine I built here a small church of Hagia Sophia. True, according to Socrates Scholastic, a Byzantine Christian historian of Greek origin, the first temple in honor of this saint was erected in the era of his successor Constantius II. The nineteenth-century Russian historian Nikodim Pavlovich Kondakov did not agree with her, believing that Konstantin had built the church, but Constantius had only expanded the building. Until 380, the temple was owned by followers of Arianism, one of the earliest movements in Christianity, after which the cathedral passed into the hands of the Nikenians - at the behest of Emperor Theodosius I. The monarch personally introduced the church of Gregory the Theologian, who later became archbishop of Constantinople.

In 404, a revolt broke out in Byzantium, during which the temple burned down. A new church was built in its place, but soon, in 415, and it was destroyed by fire. In the same year, on the orders of Emperor Theodosius II, a new basilica was erected, however, evil rock did not spare it: it also burned down. This happened during the largest revolt in the history of Byzantium and Constantinople, known as the “Nika” uprising (translated from the Greek “Win” - this is the slogan used by the rebels). At that time, Byzantium was ruled by Emperor Justinian I. Already 40 days after the fire, he ordered the construction of a new cathedral on the site of the former church. According to legend, the construction plan of a magnificent religious building was brought to the monarch by an angel who appeared in a dream.

The ruler saw the future temple as a symbol of the greatness of the empire and the true decoration of the capital, so he decided to expand the area under it. To this end, the surrounding land was purchased from their owners, and the buildings on them were demolished. The work was supervised by 10 thousand workers, Isidore Miletus and Anthimius of Thrall, the best architects of that time, who had previously shown themselves to be the construction of the church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus. Marble for the future Justinian Basilica was brought from Numidia, Prokonnis, Hierapolis and Karista, and it was the best building material. During the construction, the architectural elements of such ancient buildings as Ephesus and the Temple of the Sun in Rome were also used - respectively, eight columns of green marble and eight columns of porphyry. To decorate the cathedral and give it shine and luxury, the ruler of Constantinople did not spare gold, silver and ivory.

Huge amounts of money were spent on the construction - three annual incomes of the Byzantine Empire. And Hagia Sophia turned out to be such expenses: it was so magnificent that popular rumor attributed direct participation in its construction to supernatural forces. There is a tradition that Justinian allegedly wanted to cover the walls of the cathedral, starting from the floor and ending with arches, with gold, but it was stopped by astrologers, who predicted that “at the end of the centuries” very poor kings would reign, and in a desire to take possession of all the riches of the temple, they would “shred it to grounds ". The emperor, for whom his own fame was by no means an empty sound, was depressed by such a prospect, and he decided not to go too far with the interior of the temple. And yet, the Hagia Sophia, as the contemporary of construction Procopius of Caesarea noted, "was a wonderful sight - for those who looked at it, it seemed exceptional, for those who heard about it - completely unbelievable." According to his description, the temple, as if bending over Constantinople, stood so high above it that the city from it was visible in full view.

The construction of the cathedral was completed in a record time for those times, in just five years, and on December 27, 537, at Christmas, a grand opening took place. The consecration was performed by the patriarch of the Church of Constantinople Mina. Tradition says that Justinian, having crossed the threshold of Hagia Sophia, exclaimed: “Solomon, I surpassed you!”, Referring to the construction of the third Jewish king and ruler of the united kingdom of Israel in the Temple of Jerusalem.

Contemporaries called the cathedral great, and this definition was fully consistent with reality. For worship, performed by 525 worshipers, of which 60 were priests, and 100 were deacons, precious utensils were used. Under Emperor Heraclius I, the staff of the cathedral increased to 600 people.

A few years after the construction was completed, a strong earthquake occurred that destroyed part of the building. Its eastern side was damaged, which is under the altar, ciborium, pulpit and holy meal. From the chronography of the Byzantine monk Theophanes the Confessor, it is known that the weak seismic stability of Hagia Sophia was guilty of mechanics who did not establish support from below, but who left spans between the pillars that supported the dome, and as a result the pillars could not stand it. In 989, another powerful earthquake occurred, from which the temple also suffered: this time, the dome suffered the most severe destruction. The building had to be supported by buttresses, which affected its appearance. The dome was restored by the Armenian architect Trdat, the author of the project of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin in the city of Ani, making it even higher than it was.

In 1054, St. Sophia Cathedral went down in the history of world Christianity as a place in which the division of churches into Orthodox and Catholic was laid. This happened on July 16, when during the service the Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Kerullarius received a letter of excommunication, which was presented by the legate of Pope Leo IX Cardinal Humbert Silva-Candide, after which on July 20 the papal legates were anathematized by the patriarch. The last Christian service in the history of Hagia Sophia took place on the night of May 28, 1453. Byzantium was experiencing a period of agony, and this worship, in fact, was funeral for a dying empire. During the liturgy, the last emperor Constantine XI Dragash and his retinue said goodbye to the patriarch. And the very next day the Turks captured the temple.

According to the description of the Greek historian Duk, the author of "Byzantine History", the invaders behaved like real barbarians. Armed with swords, they broke the locked gates of the cathedral and, bursting inside, stole jewelry from the icons, and the images themselves were cut into pieces. In Hagia Sophia at that moment there were worshipers whom the Turks brutally killed. Tradition has it that so much blood was shed that its level was even indicated as a red bar on one of the columns.

On May 30, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II, entered the main temple of the defeated Byzantium. The Turks themselves did not begin to destroy the building. After attaching four minarets to it, they turned it into a mosque, calling it Hagia Sophia. In the second half of the XVI century buttresses were added to the former cathedral - vertical structures, very heavy and rough, designed to strengthen the walls. These structures markedly changed its appearance. As for the interior decoration, stucco was applied to the frescoes and mosaics - apparently, so that they would not recall his Orthodox past. Restoration in the Hagia Sophia mosque was not carried out until the middle of the XIX century, until Sultan Abdul-Majid I ordered it. The decision was dictated by the fact that the building was in danger of collapse. The architects Giuseppe and Gaspara Fossati were appointed responsible for the work. The restoration started in 1847 and lasted two years.

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I on November 2, 1922, the monarchy was abolished and the Republic of Turkey proclaimed. It was only in 1935 that the new authorities decided the fate of this unique historical, religious and architectural landmark. Head of Government Kemal Atatürk signed a decree according to which the mosque became a museum. To fully comply with this status, the layers of plaster from mosaics and frescoes were cleaned off. In 2006, a separate room was equipped in the building so that museum staff could perform Muslim religious rites. In 2018, the Turkish Constitutional Court received a submission from a private organization specializing in historical monuments about returning the status of a mosque to the Hagia Sophia Museum. However, the judges dismissed it as unacceptable.

Architecture and Interior

The main part of the cathedral, whose rectangular base is 70x75 m in size, is covered by a 31-meter hemisphere dome with a diameter from north to south of 30 m and from east to west of 31 m, consisting of forty radial arches. The drum housed the same number of windows, the peculiarity of which is that they are located at the very minimum distance from each other. This creates the impression that the dome is floating in the air.

The main dome is additionally supported by arches. They are notable for the fact that each is equipped with three rows of windows. Note that originally the cathedral had 214 windows. Subsequently, when it was reconstructed and additional buildings were added, the number of the latter was reduced to 181. There are smaller domes in the building as well, they seem to “descend” from the main roof. Their reliance on the arches allows for a uniform load distribution. In addition, the southern and northern facades additionally strengthen the towers, taking on the main burden of the arches.

Hagia Sophia is divided into three rooms (nave). The wide one is located in the central part, and the narrow ones are located at the edges, forming a cross in the complex. Inside, the former cathedral is decorated with 104 columns distributed over its two tiers: 64 are on the upper (this is a gallery), 40 - respectively, on the lower (it is called the lower floor). In Byzantine times, the first level was intended for the clergy and the emperor. Simple believers were allowed there, but only men. Women, however, were supposed to be upstairs during worship.

In front of the Hagia Sophia Museum there is a spacious courtyard with a fountain in the center. The former Orthodox Cathedral has nine entrances, of which the most famous is the central one - the so-called Imperial Gate. Built, according to legend, from the remains of Noah's ark, they are located on the western side of the building. They were opened only during major holidays, and then only for the patriarchs and rulers of Byzantium. In other cases, senior persons and their retinue passed into the temple through a small southwestern door. It is called Horologion and remains valid to this day: it is through it that numerous tourists enter the building of the Hagia Sophia Museum. Having overcome this passage, the first thing you find yourself in the annex, which is called the Lobby of the soldiers. Previously, it was intended to guard and store weapons. There is also a ramp, it leads to the upper level with three open galleries (choirs). The western one was intended for the empress and her retinue, in the north there could be women of the middle class, and the southern patriarchs were used as a deliberation room. After the lobby, there is an external extension, which is a bright and very spacious gallery leading to the room under the dome, whose height is 55 m.

The walls of Hagia Sophia deserve special mention. There is an assumption that the layers of marble with which they were lined were first sawn into thin layers and then opened like a book. There was no iconostasis as such in the hall. Instead, 12 columns were made, made of silver and decorated in the upper part with gold fragments. The latter were intended for installation of portraits of the Holy Fathers. In addition to gold and silver, precious materials such as diamonds, electrics, smaragdas, yachts, and others — in all, about 72 items — were used in the manufacture of the throne.

When the Orthodox Cathedral was converted into a Muslim mosque, a carved marble minbar was built in it, which served as a pulpit for the mullah, with which the minister of worship addressed the faithful. Interestingly, they did not install it on the site of the former altar, but displaced it to the southeast so that the worshipers would face Mecca. The dome was decorated with suras from the Koran, the mihrab and the bed of the Sultan also appeared in the interior. Candles traditional for Orthodox churches were replaced by chandeliers from lamps. On the right side of the lower floor there is a room with a carved golden lattice, reserved for the library of Sultan Mahmud I. But at present it is empty: the books collected by the ruler were distributed to other museums.

Mosaics of Hagia Sophia

The first mosaic in the Hagia Sophia appeared in 867, which included an image of the platform with the throne and the adjacent ledge of the building (apse). Here you can see the Blessed Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus on her knees and the archangel Gabriel on one side (the image of the second archangel was not preserved).The creators of this mosaic image used smalt, using interspersed gold of different sizes, which allowed to create the effect of intense flicker. The date of appearance of this image is unknown. There is a version that it was part of the original mosaic cycle created by the artist monk under the emperor Justinian. This master is considered a saint, since during the persecution the iconoclasts mutilated his hands. However, the original image he created did not reach the whole day. The mosaic that tourists can see was subsequently recreated by Saint Photius, calling it "a sign of the victory of Orthodoxy over heresy."

The end of the 9th century was marked for Hagia Sophia by the appearance of a mosaic with the face of Jesus Christ. The God-man was portrayed sitting on a throne and holding the gospel. It is symbolic that the Holy Scripture is open on the page with the words: “Peace be with you. I am the light of the world. ” There is also a mosaic portrait in the museum dedicated to the emperor Alexander, who before the accession to the throne, approximately in 870, was co-ruler of his father, Vasily Makedonyanin, and who was brother to Leo VI the Wise.

In the vaulted room, located in the southwestern corner above the south lobby, there are images also belonging to the first mosaic cycle. For example, a group of icons (dexus) decorating the entrance wall. However, the obligatory element of such a group - the figure of John the Baptist - has not been preserved. 12 more figures were placed on the vault, but only three have survived to this day: the first martyr Stephen, the prophet Ezekiel and the emperor Constantine. In the lunettes of the side walls, half-figures of the 12 apostles of Christ and the four patriarchs of Constantinople from the period of iconoclasm are preserved. These mosaics, according to many experts, have a low artistic level, which suggests that they were created by unprofessional craftsmen from among the monks.

Around 878, the northern tympanum of Hagia Sophia was decorated with mosaics depicting 16 Old Testament prophets and 14 saints. Again, not all were preserved, but only mosaics of 6 saints, including John Chrysostom and Ignatius the God-bearer. The level of these works is also assessed as low, but the expressiveness of the images attracts attention. The figures in them are squat and wide, and facial features are depicted large.

Interesting Facts

  • Hagia Sophia, before being converted into a Muslim mosque, was the largest Orthodox church in the world.
  • To the right of the altar is a colored stone mark that symbolizes the center of the universe. It was in this place that the emperors of Byzantium were crowned.
  • On one of the plates of Hagia Sophia there is a handprint belonging, according to legend, to Mehmed II himself, the conqueror of Constantinople. According to legend, the Ottoman ruler entered the temple on a horse, which, suddenly frightened by something, stood on its hind legs. The Sultan, in order not to fall out of the saddle, had to rest his palm against the wall.
  • Another unusual attraction of the former cathedral is the Gly cat. This lively talisman, in which the spirit of Justinian is believed to have embodied, loves spending time near the imperial place, thereby confirming this statement. Gly is a real celebrity, even Barack Obama took a picture with him when he was president of the United States.
  • One of the mysteries of the temple is the “crying” column, consecrated by Gregory the Wonderworker, which is also called the “column of desires”. There is a tradition that it can heal from diseases and fulfill cherished desires. The first these properties of the column, according to legend, was discovered by the emperor Justinian. His head ached badly, and when he leaned against the column, he felt relieved. According to another legend, the reason for the column’s “tearfulness” is that they added the earth from the holy city of Mecca, water from the Zamzam spring and the saliva of the prophet Muhammad to the mortar used in the construction. A hole on the surface of the column has its own history of appearance. A legend associated with it says that this is a trace from the hand of St. Elijah, who was here during the construction and tried to correct her curvature.
  • There is another mystical attraction in Hagia Sophia - a “cold” window. It is located in the southern part of the former cathedral, on the second floor. From this usual, at first glance, aperture, cold air constantly blows - even in extreme heat. The reasons for this phenomenon have not yet been established.
  • The sources of the XV-XVII centuries preserved evidence that under the cathedral is a dungeon that stores huge water tanks and special tunnels for its supply to the surface. Scanning showed that there really is a huge space under the building. Tunnels leading up were discovered. However, it was not possible to find tanks, although as early as 1945 researchers descended into the cave, but their attempts to pump water from there were unsuccessful: its level did not decrease even after several hours of work.

To the west of the temple is an ancient baptistery used for the sacrament of baptism. There was a font in the room made of a single piece of marble - it was the largest in Constantinople. Now the font has been taken outside the premises and is located in the portal, and the baptistery itself, which at one time was used as a storage of candle oil, was subsequently converted into a mausoleum. The remains of two Turkish sultans, Ibrahim I and Mustafa I, are buried in it.

  • Near the museum you can see the premises of a hexagonal and octagonal shape. They are single-chamber and are the tombs of the Turkish sultans Selim II, Murad III, Mehmed III and their families. Access to the mausoleums is free, but before entering, shoes must be removed, and women must cover their hair with a scarf. But inside the building is the tomb of Dandolo. This commander led the crusader units when they stormed Constantinople. True, his tomb is empty.
  • One of the niches of Hagia Sophia, if you lay your ear, makes a noise. There is a belief that during the Ottoman assault the priest hid in this niche, and the noise heard to this day is nothing but a prayer that comes to us that comes to us.
  • Greek and Turkish sources, which describe the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, indicate that on the eve of the fall of the capital of Byzantium, Hagia Sophia illuminated a strange and very bright glow rushing through the dome windows directly into the sky. It is believed that in this way the guardian angel of the temple left his post.
  • To visitors

    The Hagia Sophia Museum in spring, summer and autumn (from April 15 to November 1) operates from 9:00 to 19:00, in winter (from November 1 to April 15) - from 9:00 to 17:00. The day off is Monday and the first days of Ramadan, on the holiday of Eid al-Adha - a shortened day (from 13:00). Tickets can be purchased at the box office and terminals located to the left of the entrance until 18:00 and 16:00, respectively, as well as online on the museum’s official website. Entrance fee in 2019 is 60 TL, children under 8 years old are free of charge.

    In order not to be late for the excursion, it is recommended to come to the museum 15-20 minutes before its opening.

    Tourists who wish to explore Hagia Sophia individually and without a guide can use the services of an audio guide working in 12 languages, including Russian. But before you get an earphone, you have to leave a deposit - it can be a passport or money.

    Many travelers, given that Hagia Sophia is located in a Muslim country and was itself a mosque, are worried about the dress code. In fact, no special requirements for the style of clothing visitors are presented.

    How to get there

    You can get to the Hagia Sophia by metro, which you can change to immediately upon arrival at Ataturk Airport. Finding the subway following the signs directly from the airport building will not be difficult. Once on the M1 line, you need to get to the Zeytinburnu station. After that, you will have to walk a little more than a kilometer on foot, moving east along Seyit Nizam. At the T1 Kabataş-Bağcılar line stop, take the tram and get to the Sultanahmet stop. Then you will have to walk another 300 meters on foot, and you will find yourself right by Hagia Sophia.

    Hakkında söylenenler

    • Ekselansları, bildiğiniz üzere Ayasofya yüce Atatürk’ün emriyle müzedir. Amacı gereği, bu müzede dini vecibelerin yerine getirilmesi için uygun bir ortam değildir, bir kez daha hatırlatmak isterim. Buyurun gezelim. (1967 yılında Papa VI. Paul Türkiye gezisi sırasında Ayasofya Müzesi'ni gezerken İsa ve Meryem mozaiğini görünce eğilip yeri öper ve istavroz çıkarıp duaya başlayacakken dönemin dışişleri bakanı Çağlayangil tarafından kolundan tutularak kaldırılırken Çağlayangil'in Papa'ya kurduğu cümle.)

    Konuyla ilgili diğer Wikimedia sayfaları:

    Commons 'da Ayasofya ile ilgili çoklu ortam dosyaları bulunmaktadır.

    Vikipedi'de Ayasofya ile ilgili ansiklopedik bilgi bulunmaktadır.

    Hagia Sophia on the map of Istanbul

    Hagia Sophia was built in 537 at the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian on the site of churches of an earlier period. He became an important Orthodox church throughout the Christian world.

    In 557, the dome, damaged during the earthquake, was restored.

    In 843, mosaics appeared in the interior design. One of the most famous is a mosaic depicting Empress Zoe, one of the three women who independently ruled the empire.

    In 1453, after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks on the orders of Sultan Mehmed II, the temple was transformed into the Hagia Sophia mosque. Bells, an altar, an iconostasis and other sacred relics were taken outside the temple, and mosaics and frescoes depicting the faces of the saints were carefully painted over. Instead, St. Sophia Cathedral found a mihrab, a minbar and four minarets and became a Muslim mosque.

    In 1847 - 1849 During the restoration, huge Ottoman medallions appeared in the nave of the mosque.

    In the form of a mosque, the temple lasted until 1931, and in 1935 it was transformed into a museum on the orders of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

    What to see in Hagia Sophia

    Hagia Sophia Cathedral is a huge magnificent building combining elements of Orthodox and Muslim culture.

    The main entrance is the imperial gate, according to legend, made from the remains of Noah’s ark and was intended exclusively for the emperor.

    Opposite the entrance to the arch is a mihrab, that is, a niche in the wall facing Mecca. The mihrab was intended for the imam (the head of the namaz) to pray in front of all the other worshipers.

    The nave in Hagia Sophia - the main elongated room, limited on two sides by columns, amazes with its size and the effect of "transparency". This effect was achieved thanks to numerous windows and a number of arches on both sides.

    A huge dome 56 meters high symbolizes the heavenly entrance, numerous arched windows provide good lighting.

    Low hanging chandeliers have survived from Ottoman times.

    In the center under the dome you can see a mosaic of the 11th century with the image of Our Lady and Jesus Christ.

    Huge shields - medallions with Arabic gold script - with the names of Allah, Muhamed, his grandchildren and the first caliphs look rather unusual next to the Orthodox mosaic. They date from the 19th century.

    Upper galleries

    If you go up to the upper galleries on a gentle ramp - at the time of Justinian this part was exclusively female, then you can see the ancient mosaic decorating the walls.

    Mosaic Deesis dates back to the 13th century and depicts Jesus, the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist.

    Crying column

    In one of the columns, where, according to legend, a priest hid from the Turks after the last liturgy in 1453, there is a hollow framed in copper. It is believed that the column was blessed by George the Miracle Worker and heals from diseases. According to legend, you need to put your finger in there and ask for getting rid of the ailment. If the finger is wet after extraction, the disease will recede. According to another legend, if you insert your thumb there and manage to rotate it 360 degrees, your wish will come true.

    To the right of the exit is the rococo ablution fountain, dating from 1740.

    In addition, the mosque is interesting with 107 columns of colored marble, collected from the entire Byzantine Empire, a unique library and a “cold window”, where even in the hottest weather a cool breeze blows.

    The museum has a cafe and gift shop.

    Information to visit

    Since this is a museum, there are no special requirements for clothes and appearance. For an additional fee, you can take an audio guide in Russian and a museum map. Pledge money or a passport. An hour and a half is enough to inspect the cathedral.

    If you come closer to closing, then it is likely that the queue will not be at all or it will be small. In season, it’s better to buy a Museum card, which will allow you to avoid unnecessary lines.

    Hours of the Hagia Sophia Museum

    The museum is open to visitors all year round, except for the first days of Ramadan and half of Kurban Bayram.

    Working hours from April 1 to October 31: 09:00 - 19:00.

    Working hours from November 1 - March 31: 09:00 - 17:00.

    Ticket sales stop 1 hour before the end of work.

    Ticket prices

    Ticket prices at the box offices of the Hagia Sophia Museum:

    • 60 lire - for everyone
    • free - children of foreigners under 8 years old, children of Turkish citizens under 18 years old, Turkish pensioners.

    A visit to the Hagia Sophia Museum is included in the price of the Museum Card, and this will also allow you to skip the line.

    A tour of the Hagia Sophia Museum and the whole of Sultanahmet is much more interesting with a guide; we recommend that you take a closer look at the excursions: once or twice.

    A Brief History of Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul

    • Hagia Sophia Cathedral built 15 centuries ago (532-537 years) by order of the Byzantine emperor Justinian (this emperor, oddly enough, came from peasants). He wanted the cathedral to be the main building of the capital (then Constantinople) and that he emphasized the power of the empire. By the way, we wouldn’t see Hagia Sophia in Istanbul now if the “Nika” popular uprising had not happened. During this very bloody riot (on Hippodrome about 35 thousand townspeople were killed) the church of the same name burned down, on the site of which the cathedral was built. Need to saythat even earlier the church stood here too: it also burned down and was also called Hagia Sophia. And even earlier there was a trading area. In fact, the place where the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul now stands is the very heart of ancient Constantinople and the entire Byzantine Empire.
    • Justinian He wanted his creation to be truly grandiose. To expand the place for construction, he bought up nearby land plots and demolished the buildings that were on them. The emperor invited two top architectswho proved themselves during the construction of the temple, now known as Small Hagia Sophia. I must say that the "little Sophia" served as a prototype of the future "big" cathedral.

    The interior of the Hagia Sophia Cathedral. View from the upper gallery.

    • The construction took 130 tons of goldthat amounted to three ready budgets countries! During almost 6 years worked here every day 10 000 builders. Marbles of various kinds were brought from all over the empire. And parts of ancient buildings that were also used in construction were brought from everywhere. For example, from the city of Ephesus (from Temple of Artemis, which set fire to Herostratus to become famous) brought 8 columns of green marble, and from rome - 8 columns from the temple of the sun. Also, the construction used very strong, but lightweight bricks made of material with Rhodes. In the decoration used ivory, silver and a lot of gold. It is said that Justinian wanted to cover the entire interior with gold from floor to ceiling. However, astrologers persuaded him not to do this, predicting that after him there will be "weak rulers" who will destroy the cathedral when they plunder it.

    Low hanging chandeliers were added during the Ottomans.

    • At the base of the cathedral is a rectangle 76x68 meters. Dome height reaches 56 metersand its diameter is 30 meters. Wall thickness comes in places up to 5 meters. For the strength of the masonry, the solution was added ash leaf extract.
    • In the best of times, they worked in the cathedral 600 clergymen.
    • In 1204 Constantinople was captured by the crusaders during the fourth crusade. This trip, unfortunately, is a shameful spot in world history.You must admit that it’s very strange how it could happen that the participants in the crusade, the purpose of which was originally to go to Egypt for allegedly a religious war against Muslims, captured and devastated the Christian city - the city of brothers in faith. Constantinople was completely looted, and, of course, Hagia Sophia Cathedral suffered no less. The Crusaders took with them all the jewels and sacred relics. It's believed that 90% of Christian relics, which are now in Europe, were taken out during this campaign.

    The diameter of the main dome is 30 meters.

    • The last Christian service passed in the cathedral on the night of May 29, 1453. The emperor himself was present with his retinue.
    • The next day, the Cathedral was looted by the Turkswho captured Constantinople under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror (Fatih). Subsequently, the cathedral was converted into a mosque, attaching minarets to it. Mosaics inside the mosque were hidden under a layer of plaster - this saved them. The cathedral served as a mosque 500 years and became the prototype for many mosques in Istanbul, for example, Blue mosquelocated nearby and for Suleymaniye Mosquewhich is built in Bazaar quarter.
    • In 1935 By order of President Ataturk, the mosque was given museum status. Stucco hiding mosaics has been removed. Now the museum is being actively restored.

    Half-mosaic mosaic above the mihrab: Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus (867).

    Curious facts

    • Hagia Sophia in Istanbul not named after the martyr Hagia Sophia, although such also existed. In Greek, sofia is wisdom. This is the cathedral of the Wisdom of God. The wisdom of God is a kind of vehicle between the Lord and man.
    • The most important cat of Istanbul lives in the Cathedral named Gly. This cat behaves in the cathedral as a real owner and loves to sit at the Imperial place. He also became famous for being stroked by President Barack Obama of America.
    • Princess of the Old Russian State Olga baptized in the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, presumably in 957. She was the first ruler of Russia to be baptized.
    • Events Happened in Hagia Sophia Cathedralwhich gave the beginning of the schism into two branches: Catholic and Orthodox. This happened in 1054, when during a divine service, the envoy of the Pope handed a letter of excommunication to the Patriarch. The patriarch thought for a couple of days and excommunicated the envoy of the Pope from the church. Since this all started.

    Painting arches on plaster.

    • Moscow - The Third Rome. After the fall of Constantinople (Second Rome) and after the main Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque, the center of Orthodoxy actually disappeared in the world. It was obvious that the young principality of Moscow, which was gaining strength, was becoming the successor of Orthodoxy, because there was no other Orthodox center. It was this idea that led to the fact that Moscow began to be called Third Rome.
    • Shroud of Turin, according to one legend, was stored in Hagia Sophia and was abducted during the fourth crusade. According to legend, the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped in it. In 1898, an amateur photographer photographed the shroud and saw a human face on negatives. Now the shroud is kept in one of the cathedrals of the city of Turin (Italy).
    • In 2007 influential US politicians and business leaders led the movement to bring the cathedral back to the church. So far they have not achieved anything.

    It is believed that the cathedral has tremendous energy.

    Mysticism of Hagia Sophia

    • The Crying Columnthe base of which is covered with copper plates. It is also called the column of St. Gregory. There is a small depression in the column with which one superstition is associated. You need to stick your thumb in the recess and scroll your palm three times in a circle, touching it with copper sheets. If at the same time you feel moisture, then make a wish - it will allegedly come true. This belief has existed since the 13th century: even Anthony Novgorodets, during his pilgrimage to Constantinople, wrote that people come to the crying column and “rub their fingers ... to heal diseases ...”.
    • Niche that makes a faint noise. According to descriptions, it is located in the southern part of the cathedral. This phenomenon has been associated with another legend. According to her, at the time when Constantinople fell under the onslaught of the Turkish troops and they broke into the cathedral, there was a service in it. The invaders were ready to kill the priest reading the prayer, but at that moment the walls parted and hid the priest behind them. According to legend, the priest is still there and will appear again when the cathedral again becomes a Christian church.
    • Cold window - Another mystery of the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul. A cool breeze blows from this window, even when it is very hot outside. This window is located on the second floor (southern part of the cathedral) and overlooks Blue mosque.

    This pit in front of the entrance to the Hagia Sophia Cathedral is the result of excavations of more ancient buildings that were located here even before the construction of the temple.

    Secrets of the flooded dungeon of Hagia Sophia

    In addition to the visible part of the cathedral, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has poorly studied underground part. From the annals it is known that in order to make the foundation, as if they dug a 70-meter pit. Various sources also report that under Hagia Sophia there is huge tanks for storing water and many tunnels. Apparently, the tank should resemble a huge Basilica Cistern, which is located near the cathedral.

    Reach the Flooded Dungeon tried in 1945 by the Americans. To do this, they decided to pump out water from there. But no matter how hard they tried, the water level did not drop. As a result, the idea was abandoned after the pumps burned out.

    More successful attempts were at the Turkish researchers. But they immediately decided that they would not pump out the water, but made several successful dives into the flooded underground part of the cathedral. The last descent took place in 2013. Some legends were confirmed, and some turned out to be simply an exaggeration.

    Exploration of the underground of Hagia Sophia.

    Submariners found places for burial. Has been well researched 12 meter well at the main entrance. BUT in the well in the central part of the temple fragments of a very large lamp were found. The walls were found tightly closed doors, which they did not try to open. Perhaps behind these doors are large cisterns for collecting water, which travelers of the past wrote about. This is confirmed by scanning the floor of the cathedral for voids. This scan showed that there is huge empty spaces!

    There was also a descent into dry stone tunnel. Coming from the corridor two moves: one to Hippodrome Squarethe second to Topkapi Palace. These corridors bifurcate and some sleeves end in dead ends. But one of the arms has access to the courtyard of Topkapi Palace.

    Tourists enter the cathedral through the Imperial Gate.

    General recommendations

    • Come best either to the opening of the museum in the early morning, or closer to closing, in the evening, because there are a lot of visitors during the day. It’s even better to visit the museum on weekdays, as on weekends, especially in the high season, you just don’t get crowded. At the peak of visits, a queue at the ticket offices of several tens of meters is a common thing.
    • After buying a ticket it’s necessary to pass a check: each tourist goes through the frame of the metal detector, and the backpack is checked, as at the airport, by X-ray.
    • The restoration has been going on for a long time: part of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is covered by scaffolding from floor to ceiling. This spoils the impression somewhat.

    A small line at the entrance to the Hagia Sophia Museum.

    Inspection Sequence

    • We start the inspection from the first floor. First we enter through the big gate in the first narthex, and then - in the second narthex. (The narthex is an extension to the temple). Before entering the cathedral, pay attention to the "foundation pit" dug to the left of the entrance. These are traces of an older structure, which was here even before the construction of the cathedral.
    • First porch. This annex is unfinished - marble slabs have long been removed. On the left side of the vestibule are baptism stone bowl (5) babies and a large screen on which there is a film about the history of Hagia Sophia (in English). In front of the screen are chairs, you can sit and watch a movie. On the right side of the narthex against the wall stands huge sarcophagus (4)opposite him bell (3)and then souvenir shop.

    Font for baptism in the first narthex.

    • Second narthex. This extension has preserved the finish from the moment of construction - the ceiling is laid out golden mosaic, on the walls - marble with a mirror pattern. On the left side of the second vestibule is located staircase (ramp) (2) to the second floor. This staircase has no steps. This was done on purpose, in order to make it easier to bring the Empress on a palanquin (special stretcher) to the second floor in imperial bed. On the right side of the narthex such a staircase also exists, but it is closed. There, on the right side, there are gates through which you can enter the courtyard to ablution fountain (6). Above the gate called Beautiful gateone of the most famous mosaics of the cathedral, which depicts the builder of the temple, Emperor Justinian, Our Lady on the throne and Emperor Constantine, the founder of the city. Mosaic is visible in the direction from the courtyard to the cathedral, and not from the cathedral to the courtyard. Second mosaic is over imperial gates (9). It is called Jesus Pankrator. A detailed description of all the mosaics and information on where to find them, see below. Imperial Gate (9), according to legend, redone from fragments of Noah's Ark. Previously, only the emperor himself could enter them, but now you can. Particularly close to the emperor entered the neighboring doors. Above the imperial gate on the second floor is located imperial bed. About it will be written in more detail below.

    Outline of the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul. The red color indicates particularly interesting places in the cathedral.

    • Patio of the Baptismal Hall (Baptistery). You can get there through the second narthex (we go to its right side), then, right at the exit, we go into the door on the left. In the courtyard is stone font, which was moved directly from the baptismal room (baptistery). The font is large, with steps. In it, several people in adulthood were baptized (converted). Later, when Orthodoxy was widespread, smaller baptismal fonts (for infants) were used for baptism. Look small font (5) possible on the left side of the first vestibule. At one time, the courtyard and the baptismal (baptistery) were used by the Turks to store oil for lamps that illuminated the cathedral. Oil vessels placed along the walls of the courtyard of the Baptistery.

    Stone font in the courtyard of the baptismal room.

    • Baptismal Hall (Baptistery). Now it is the tomb of the sultans Mustafa I and Ibrahim I. From the courtyard of the baptismal hall (baptistery) through the glass door you can see the baptismal itself, but you can’t get there from the courtyard. You can visit the tomb for free, but for this you need to leave the territory of the Museum of Hagia Sophia and approach the cathedral from its right (eastern) side. See details Tombs of Hagia Sophia.

    Vessels for storing oil in the courtyard of the baptismal room.

    • The main space of the cathedral. From the second vestibule through imperial gate (9) We enter the main space of the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul.
    • The central part of the first floor. We go to the very center of the cathedral under the dome. Let me remind you that the diameter of the dome is 30 metersand height 56 meters. By the way, this dome in 557 was destroyed by an earthquake, and then rebuilt again. The dome is surrounded by 40 windows. Now on the dome is written a sura from the Koran, and earlier, in the time of Byzantium, there was an image of Jesus.

    Six-winged seraph. The face of the seraph is painted over by a polygonal star. Image size 11 meters.

    • Looking back on imperial gate (9). On the left and on the right we see two marble vases (11)brought from Pergamum. The whole space is lit low hanging chandeliersthat were added during the Ottomans. Hang on top eight huge Islamic medallions (7.5 meters in diameter) on which are written in Arabic letters the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the first caliphs Ali and Abu Bakr. Without lowering our heads, look above the medallions. There are depicted four six-winged seraphim. In Christianity, a seraph is an angel closest to God. The length of these images is 11 meters. Now only one face of the seraphim is open, others are closed during the Ottomans with drawings of a polygonal star. Initially, faces were painted in the form of an eagle and a lion, as well as the faces of angels.

    Islamic medallions (7.5 meters). The inscriptions are made on the skin.

    • Now look forward again and we approach the fenced area. This place is called omphalion (12) and symbolizes "The center of the world", i.e "Center of the World". In the central circle there used to be the throne of the emperor, and in small circles nearby were his close ones. It was in this place that the ceremony of coronation of emperors took place. There is a version that the arrangement of circles has a secret encrypted meaning. Near the omphalion is a special eminence - something like a covered pavilion. it muezzin tribune (13). It is intended for the minister of the mosque, who calls from the minaret for prayer.
    • Move forward. We see right above mosaic Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. A detailed description of all the mosaics and information on where to find them in the cathedral, see below. Under the mosaic is mihrab (15) - a decorated niche that shows the direction to Mecca. To the right of the mihrab is minbar (14) - a high tribune with steps, from where the imam reads a sermon.

    Omphalion (Peace Center): Byzantine emperors were crowned here.

    • Left side of the first floor. On the left side is crying column (10), the lower part of which is covered with copper plates. Make a cherished desire, stick your thumb in a small depression and scroll your palm three times in a circle, without lifting your palm from the surface of copper sheets. It looks funny from the side. According to legend, if you feel the moisture, then your desire will allegedly come true. This belief is several centuries old.
    • Right side of the first floor. Here it is library (17) of Sultan Mahmoud I. Books were brought here during the reign of this Sultan. Now they are on display in another museum, and you can only admire the patterned lattice of arched windows.

    Climbing stairs without steps (ramp) to the second floor of the cathedral.

    • Second floor. Now it's time to climb to the second floor. Let's go in the second narthex and by stairs (ramp) (2) go up to the upper gallery. Once the empress was carried here, lifting her into the imperial box. Walk around the perimeter, look at the bottom of the cathedral from above. At the same time look for the inscriptions made on the parapets (stone fences) nordic runes. Look for them on the parapets on the south side of the cathedral. Runes are the writing of the ancient Germans. These inscriptions were scratched by Varangian mercenaries who served with the Byzantine emperor for hire.
    • In the right (south) wing find the empty floor Doge's Tomb Enrico Dandolo - ruler of Venice. This is a niche in the floor, which is closed with a stone lid with the name of the Doge. In fact, the tomb is empty - there are no remains of the ruler of Venice in it. Enrico Dandolo “became famous” for the fact that at the age of 97, being almost blind, he captured Constantinople during the fourth crusade. Ironically, his tomb is in that very cathedral, in the sack of which she personally took part. According to legend, Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror (Fatih) ordered to take out the bones of the former ruler of Venice and throw them away for dogs.

    Scandinavian runes carved on stone parapets.

    • Opposite the tomb is a mosaic Last judgment. The other two mosaics are located in the far part of the south wing. And four more mosaics - in the northern part of the second floor.A detailed description of all the mosaics and information on where to find them in the cathedral, read below.
    • It was often mentioned here imperial bed. It was on the second floor right above imperial gates (9). During this service, the Empress sat in this box with her maids of honor. In the period of early Christianity, women and men were in the cathedral separately from each other.

    Where to look for mosaics in the cathedral

    The first mosaics appeared in the cathedral three centuries after its construction. Some are well preserved so far, and you can see them. By the way, in Istanbul there is a whole mosaic museumthat were found at the excavation site Grand Palace (the palace itself was practically not preserved).

    The location of the mosaics in Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul.

    • Mosaic No. 1: Christ Pankrator (end of 10th century). Located in the second narthex above imperial gates (9). It's in western part of the cathedral. The mosaic depicts Christ, who sits on a throne. In his hands He holds a book with the inscription: “Peace be with you. I am the light of the world. ” Emperor Leo VI bowed to him. To the left of Jesus Christ is the Virgin Mary, to the right is the archangel Gabriel. The image symbolizes the eternal power that the Lord gave to emperors. It is believed that Emperor Leo VI is on his knees because he asks for forgiveness for his fourth non-canonical marriage. Because of this, the patriarch did not let the emperor into the cathedral and did not begin to crown.
    • Mosaic No. 2: Emperor Justinian, Mother of God, Emperor Constantine. Located on the right side of the second vestibule above the first gate to the courtyard. Mosaic is visible in the direction from the courtyard to the cathedral, and not from the cathedral to the courtyard. On the mosaic to the left is Emperor Justinian (cathedral builder). In his hands is the Hagia Sophia, which he presents to Our Lady. In the middle - Our Lady with a child in her arms, she sits on the throne. Right - Emperor Constantine (founder of the city). In his hands is Constantinople, which he presents to the Mother of God.

    Mosaic "The Last Judgment".

    • Mosaic No. 3: Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus (867 g.). Located halfway above the mihrab in the eastern part of the temple. It is clearly visible from almost any part of the building - it is difficult not to notice it.
    • Mosaic No. 4: The Last Judgment. Located on the second floor of the cathedral (southern part) opposite tombs of the ruler of Venice Enrico Dandolo. The mosaic in the very center depicts Christ, the Mother of God on the left, and John the Baptist on the right. They ask Jesus Christ to save the human race. It is believed that part of the mosaic was destroyed by the crusaders.

    Fragment of the mosaic "The Last Judgment". The face of Jesus Christ.

    • Mosaic No. 5: Emperor Konstantin Monomakh, Christ and Empress Zoe (circa 1044). Located on the second floor in the eastern part of the south gallery cathedral. The mosaic in the center depicts Christ, on the left - Konstantin Monomakh (Zoe's husband) presents gifts (a bag of money) to Him, and on the right - Empress Zoe presents a deed of gift. Under the reign of Zoe’s stepson, the empress’s face was chipped together in a mosaic. When Zoe again ascended the throne, the mosaic was restored. By the way, the first husband of Zoe was depicted on the mosaic, but when she married Konstantin Monomakh for the third time, the face of the second husband was chopped off, replacing it with the face of the third husband.
    • Mosaic No. 6: Emperor John Comnenus, Mother of God and Empress Irina (c. 1120). Located next to mosaic number 5 on the second floor in the eastern part of the temple of the southern gallery. The mosaic on the left depicts Emperor John Komnin, on the right - his wife Irina. In the middle of the Virgin. The emperor presents gifts (a bag of money), and the empress presents a deed of gift.

    Mosaic Emperor Konstantin Monomakh, Christ and Empress Zoe (circa 1044)

    • Series of mosaics of bishops: John Chrysostom, Dionysius the Areopagite, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Ignatius the God-Bearer (c. 878). These mosaics are located in niches from the northern part of the temple. View them best from the southern part of the second floor. It is necessary to stand approximately in the center of the southern gallery.

    Mode of operation. Cost of visiting

    • Working hours: from 09.00-19.00 (summer schedule, from April 15 to October 30), from 09.00-17.00 (winter schedule, from October 30 to April 15). The museum is closed on Mondays.
    • Admission Cost: 72 TL. You can pay by credit card. Tickets stop selling an hour before closing time. Children under seven are free. When you visit this museum you can save if you use museum card.

    Architecture and Interior

    Hagia Sophia in Turkey is a rectangular basilica of classical shape with three naves, two vestibules adjoin the western part of which. The length of the temple is 100 meters, the width is 69.5 meters, the height of the dome is 55.6 meters, and its diameter is 31 meters. The main material during the construction of the building was marble, but light bricks made of clay and sand were also used. In front of the facade of Hagia Sophia there is a courtyard with a fountain in the middle. And nine doors lead to the museum itself: the central one in the old days could be used only by the emperor himself.

    But no matter how magnificent the church looks from the outside, the true masterpieces of architecture are enclosed in its interior decoration. The hall of the basilica consists of two galleries (upper and lower) made of marble, specially imported to Istanbul from Rome. The lower tier is decorated with 104 columns, and the upper - 64. It is almost impossible to find a site in the cathedral that would not have been decorated. The interior features numerous frescoes, mosaics, silver and gold coatings, terracotta and ivory elements. There is a legend that says that Justinian originally planned to decorate the temple completely in gold, but the soothsayers dissuaded him, predicting the times of the poor and greedy emperors, who would not leave a trace from such a magnificent structure.

    Of particular value in the cathedral are Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. They were preserved quite well largely due to the fact that the Ottomans who came to Constantinople simply plastered Christian images, thereby preventing their destruction. With the advent of the Turkish conquerors in the capital, the interior of the temple was supplemented by a mihrab (a Muslim kind of altar), a lodge of the Sultan and a marble minbar (pulpit in a mosque). Also, candles traditional for Christianity, which were replaced by chandeliers from lamps, left the interior.

    In the original version, Aya Sofya in Istanbul was illuminated by 214 windows, but over time, due to additional buildings in the shrine, there were only 181. There are 361 doors in the cathedral, one hundred of which are covered with various symbols. Rumor has it that whenever they are counted, there are new doors that have never been seen before. Under the ground part of the structure were discovered underground passages flooded by groundwater. During one of the studies of such tunnels, scientists found a secret passage leading from the cathedral to another famous landmark of Istanbul - Topkapi Palace. Also, jewelry and human remains were discovered here.

    The decoration of the museum is so rich that it is practically impossible to describe it briefly, and not a single photo of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul can convey the grace, atmosphere and energy that are inherent in this place. Therefore, be sure to visit this unique historical monument and see for yourself its greatness.

    Practical information

    The exact address: Sultanahmet Meydanı, Fatih, İstanbul, Türkiye.

    Opening hours: during the period from April 15 to October 30, the doors of the cathedral are open for visitors from 09:00 to 19:00. The last ticket can be purchased no later than 18:00. In the period from October 30 to April 15, the attraction is open from 09:00 to 17:00. Ticket offices are available until 16:00.

    As of September 2018, the price for admission to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is 40 tl. However, from October 1, 2018, the Turkish authorities raise the cost of entrance tickets in more than 50 museums of the country, including Ayia Sofya. So, with the onset of the indicated date, the price for entering the temple will be 60 tl. This increase is due to the difficult economic situation in Turkey, as well as a sharp drop in the Turkish lira against the dollar and the euro.

    Useful Tips

    If you plan to visit the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, be sure to pay attention to the recommendations of tourists who have already visited the museum. We, in turn, after studying the reviews of travelers, made our top of the most useful tips:

    1. It is best to go to the sights by 08: 00-08: 30 in the morning. After 09:00, large lines form at the box office near the ticket office, and standing in the open air, especially at the height of the summer season, is quite exhausting.
    2. If in addition to Ayia Sofya you plan to visit other iconic places of Istanbul with a paid entrance, we advise you to purchase a special museum card that operates only within the metropolis. Its cost is 125 tl. Such a pass will allow you not only to save money, but also to avoid long lines at the box office.
    3. Another life hack for those who do not want to lose time in the crowd of tourists: you can always find illegal sellers near the museum who will sell you an entrance ticket with a small extra charge.
    4. Be sure to bring water with you. In the summer months, Istanbul is quite hot, so you can’t do without fluids. Water can also be bought at the cathedral, but it will cost several times more.
    5. Tourists who visit the museum recommend that they allocate no more than two hours for a tour of the Hagia Sophia church.
    6. To make your impressions of visiting the cathedral as complete as possible, we advise you to hire a guide. You can find a conductor who speaks Russian right at the entrance. Each of them has its own price, but in Turkey you can always bargain.
    7. If you do not want to spend money on a guide, then purchase an audio guide, and if this option does not suit you, then before visiting the cathedral, watch a detailed film about Aya Sofya from National Geographic.
    8. Some travelers do not recommend visiting the temple in the evening, because, according to them, only in daylight can you fully see all the details of the interior.

    Hagia Sophia is undeniably a must-see attraction in Istanbul. And using the information and recommendations from our article, you can organize the perfect tour and get the most out of the museum.

    Posted by Catherine Unal

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