Hagia Sophia Outsite View

Hagia Sophia: The Iconic Monument’s Dual Identity Explained

You must have heard a faint hint or even a heated debate about Hagia Sophia by now, if you are planning to travel to Turkey or just reading about top places for your next big adventure. It is just like a puzzle when we look back into history, isn’t it? Therefore, let us now get deep into the story of this one architectural marvel and clear off any confusion there may be.

Hagia Sophia Mosaic

Hagia Sophia Mosaic

A Time Machine Built of Stone and Mosaic

Hagia Sophia which is Ayasofya in Turkish is not an ordinary building; it’s an exemplar of Byzantine architecture that has existed on Istanbul skyline since 537 AD. The grand design was the brainchild of Emperor Justinian I, who initially put up as a cathedral. For almost 1000 years it was world’s largest enclosed space and served as the mainstay for Eastern Orthodox Church.

Istanbul Hagia Sophia Inside View

Istanbul Hagia Sophia Inside View

Museum? Mosque? Both?

Advancing time to 1453 Ottoman Turks took over Constantinople coming out with Mehmed the Conqueror that shows why he does, like as his job title, Hagia Sophia a mosque. That way it had its crosses replaced with crescents overnight while minarets began peeping through its formidable walls.

In 1935, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who was the founder of modern Turkey turned Hagia Sophia into a museum in what can be termed as a bold move to secularize and modernize the new republic. This museum phase lasted until 2020 when it was reconverted into a mosque, once again opening its doors for worship.

Despite these changes, Hagia Sophia remains an open space for visitors from all walks of life without any chargeable fees making it a vibrant thread in history and culture’s tapestry. Nevertheless, starting January 15th, 2024 there have been new entry laws in place to make visiting better at Hagia Sophia. And received both mosque and museum status.

To find out current information about visiting clockwork of Hagia Sophia refer to our recent blog post: “How to Visit Hagia Sophia in Istanbul?

Most Recommended Istanbul Tours

Hagia Sophia Inside

Hagia Sophia Inside

A Tour of Today’s Hagia Sophia

When you go there do not think merely that you are going into a museum but go knowing that people still come here every day and pray. Therefore you should watch prayer times as many Muslims close their holy places during prayer time on regular basis daily. Oh well! And don’t forget modest clothing please because shoulders should be covered up unlike the dresses on your summer vacation in Europe where you could wear whatever you wanted; women primarily should cover their hair too.

Why This Dual Identity Matters

Hagia Sophia is a perfect illustration of Istanbul, which itself is an embodiment of so many different cultures from both Europe and Asia. It has served as a cathedral, a mosque, museum as well as a mosque again. This is not just about religious change but how the society views itself over the ages.

So, Is it a Church or a Mosque?

No it isn’t that simple. Hagia Sophia used to be one, and its current status will not erase its past as a church. It encapsulates Turkey’s complicated history and continued narrative.

Tips for Your Visit

Timing: You can take photos when there are fewer people around in the early mornings or late afternoons with softer light.

Some Cultural Savvy: Familiarize yourself with some local customs; saying “merhaba” might get you help or smiles from the locals.

Walking Around: The environs of Hagia Sophia have plenty of other historical sites such as Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. So make it your day!

Sultanahmet Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Bosphorus Istanbul Turkey

Sultanahmet Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Bosphorus Istanbul Turkey

A visit to Hagia Sophia provides more than just sightseeing in terms of architecture; rather, one gets to experience the heart of human civilization that has witnessed empires rising and falling, religions colliding and blending together. Whether you lean more towards art, architecture, history, or religion, Hagia Sophia has something to stir your soul.

So, pack your bags, charge your camera, and get ready for a journey through time in the heart of Istanbul.

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