From our hotel room at Burckin, we had a lovely view of Hagia Sophia, standing out in the Sultanmet skyline.
Hagia Sophia, meaning Divine Wisdom, has a very interesting past. Three churches have held the name on the very same spot. The Hagia Sophia that stands today was finished in the year 537, during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It is the oldest church in the world, and was also the largest church in the world for 1000 years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.
It was a Christian church for most of its existence, but in the 1453 Fall of Constantinople (Istanbul was previous named for Constantine), it was converted to a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II.
Turkey’s first president, Ataturk, secularized it and converted the Istanbul gem to a museum, re-opening it in 1935, as it was a treasure for both Muslims and Christians based on its rich historical past.
What is most striking to me is the dome. This amazing feat in Byzantine style is said to have changed the history of architecture. I had flashbacks to 6th grade when we all had to attempt to build a dome in model-size. Our teacher had given us this exercise to show us how difficult it is to construct this type of structure. I can’t imagine the talent and skill it took back in the 6th Century. 1000 skilled tradesman and 10,000 workers were needed to complete Hagia Sophia.
And….it was magnificent to walk beneath it.
We had the opportunity to walk up a winding ramp to the top to get a different angle.
Hagia Sophia falls at the toop of my impressive religious structures list we have seen. Others making the list are:
- The Duomo of Florence
- The Duomo of Milan
- The Duomo of Siena
- Lyon’s Basilica
- The Emerald Buddha & surrounding temples at Grand Palace, Bangkok
- Notre Dame in Paris
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