From the Big Church to Holy Wisdom! Hagia – Sophia!


Istanbul is one of the most fascinating cities of the world, integrating two continents of Europe and Asia, with a long urban history of hundreds of years. Hagia Sophia, originally built as a Byzantine church and turned into a mosque, later on, is one of the most charming buildings of the city. When you check where the Hagia Sophia Museum is on the map, you see that it is located at the heart of the old town in a circle close to other historical attractions like an underground cistern, Topkapı Palace and the Blue Mosque. That’s why it is always a part of Istanbul Classics Old City Tours where you can enjoy its mystical atmosphere.

From the Big Church to Holy Wisdom

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How Hagia Sophia was built reflects a very interesting story with two important milestones; the first is the East Romans building the church while the second being the Ottoman Empire converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Hagia Sophia is renowned to be the biggest church constructed by the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul. The big church known as Megale Ekklesia in origin was constructed in three varying times on the same locale. Emperor Konstantinos was the first person who built Hagia Sophia in 360 A.D. The first construction was burnt during a riot in 404 A.D. Thus, the second church was re-built by Emperor Theodosios II, just eleven years after the fire. Unluckily, the second church was devastated in 532, again during a riot between the blues and the greens representing the aristocrats and merchants on rivaling sides. The third church was completed by two Roman architects of Emperor Justiniano’s reign on 27 December 537.

The reason why Hagia Sophia is a wonder of the world is explained by its architecture, functionality and its huge size. Originally, it was shaped like a basilica, having a wooden roof and vertical positioning. The Big Church is known to be converted into Holy Wisdom, referring to the reasoning of why it was built the third time. By the order of Emperor Justinian’s, all the provinces of the East Roman Empire sent the best architectural pieces to reconstruct the great building. This great masterpiece was the largest worshipping area for the Christians in the eastern districts of the Empire while being the symbol of grandness compared to King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.

The Combination of Religions and Eras


This fascinating architecture is a combination of three basilica styles with the center occupied by the dome and with Islamic figures strengthening the spirit. What is in Hagia Sophia is a mixture of Islamic and Christian figures of religion as well as Ottoman and East Roman architectures. The construction includes large amounts of marble columns. White marble pieces are known to be originated from Marmara Island while the green porphyry from Eğriboz Island and the yellow blocks from North Africa are combined to make up the asymmetrical shape.

After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans in 1453, the decision of renovating this nice temple damaged by the Crusades was taken by Fatih Sultan Mehmet who turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The minarets were designed and constructed by Mimar Sinan while mihrabs, makssorahs as well as a preachment stand being added to the construction to reinforce the structure of the mosque in it. Thanks to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s decision in 1935, by which Hagia Sophia Museum welcomes its visitors today in this latest form.


Tips Before Scheduling St. Sophia Programme


The first step to arrange your visit is to find out what time Hagia Sophia opens and when is closed. In fact, the opening and closing times for the museum depending on the season. It is open for visits at 09:00 both in winter and summer. However, closing times are scheduled according to the final entry. In winter, 16:00 is the latest entry time whereas it is delayed to 17:00 on summer days. So, the advice for tourists when to visit Hagia Sophia is any time but preferably between April and October is the best if you want to enjoy longer. Of course, the best advice is to take a guided Hagia Sophia skip-the-line tour with efficient time management. You can have a look at the tour on

The Selected Tours for Hagia Sophia Museum

The famous Hagia Sophia is recognizable by the central dome representing an Orthodox basilica with four minarets representing the Islamic religion’s figures. So, it is always a popular and busy spot for visitors. The best way to discover this beauty is to take a Hagia Sophia skip-the-line tour led by professional guides of This tour lasts for almost an hour and there is no need to wait for a long queue to get in.

Travelers of Istanbul are always eager to find a solution to see as much as the mystical city relics so that selecting a suitable tour is a matter of decision. alternatives make it possible to buy Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace tickets easily by Istanbul Tourist Pass. The pass varies from 2 -7 days in nature, saves money and time for you with its allowance to more than 30 attractions in the city. Furthermore, you don’t need to get stressed with the distance of almost 47 km to take to reach Hagia Sophia from Istanbul Airport because this Istanbul Tourist Pass has a free shuttle service for you from the airport to the heart of Istanbul where Hagia Sophia is also located.

Another strongly recommended type of exploration in the area is a walking tour. Istanbul half-day walking tours successfully give you the great energy of the surroundings from Hagia Sophia to Grand Bazaar while walking on the spot.

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