Walking the Amalfi in Turkey

The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya Camii in Turkish and Church of Holy Wisdom in English) is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the old city of Istanbul. It’s the most-visited site by tourists, according to the Istanbul tourism site. You’ll find it at Sultanahmet Square across from the famous Blue Mosque.

The Hagia Sophia is a work of art that reflects early Byzantine artistic ideals, according to art historian Nadine Schibille. We know from contemporary historical texts that Emperor Justinian I of the Eastern Roman Empire (or the Byzantine Empire) commissioned the building as it’s known today and constructed it as a church between 532 and 537 A.D.

The Hagia Sophia has undergone many transformations since its foundation so there’s an array of architecture, designs, and art to see here. First, it was a Byzantine church. Then, after the Ottomans conquered the Byzantine capital of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, the Ottomans converted the building into a mosque.

In 1931, Turkish President Ataturk remodeled the Hagia Sophia into a museum. Finally, in July 2020, the Turkish government reestablished the Hagia Sophia as a mosque.

Things to see at the Hagia Sophia include Norse inscriptions, Sultan’s tombs, and the many mosaics here. Not to mention, you might be surprised by how many Christian depictions you find in a mosque.


Things to Know

Since the Hagia Sophia is an active place of prayer and worship, there are a few things to keep in mind before visiting. First, there are suggested dress requirements: covered head and shoulders for women, below-the-knee clothing for men, and removed shoes before stepping on the prayer carpets.

Second, be sure to avoid visiting at prayer times when the mosque is closed to the public. Prayers occur in the early morning, midday, midafternoon, and evening.

Pro Tip: Be sure to check their website for all entry times!


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