ultramarinus – beyond the sea

HAGIA SOPHIA, Istanbul, Turkey

2006.04.30.

It was nice to take an early morning walk in the Sultanahmet area.  To visit Hagia Sophia, one of the country’s most popular attraction, an early morning start allowed us to beat the crowds to walk around the marvelous structure and enter the museum at 9am.  Hagia Sophia to Istanbul is like Colosseum to Rome, Parthenon to Athens or the Great Pyramid of Giza to Cairo.  These architecture represent the architectural and engineering marvel that has defined an era in world history.  The current building was built in 537 AD during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian.  Back then, Hagia Sophia was the largest building in the world.  Its great dome has a diameter of 107 feet, and remained as the largest in the world until the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was completed in the late 16th century.  In fact, one of the biggest achievements for architects Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus was to create the gigantic dome without resting on any solid wall support, but instead, constructed triangular pendentives to transfer the force of the circular structure to a square base.

Throughout history, Hagia Sophia has gone through times of destruction and alterations due to earthquakes and regime change.  From 537 to 1453 AD, Hagia Sophia served as an Eastern Orthodox church and housed the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.  After the Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople, four minarets were added, Christian figures and decorations were destroyed while mosaic art were plastered over, and the building was converted into the city’s primary mosque, until the Blue Mosque was completed in 1616.  In 1935, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, converted the famous structure into a museum.

S-Hagia Sophia 3Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Turkey.  We came early in the morning to avoid the tourist groups.

S-Hagia SophiaThe 1500-year-old structure has been altered several times in history.

06ME05-22After almost a thousand years as an Eastern Orthodox church, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque in 1453.  Then in 1935 the building was converted into a museum.

S-Hagia Sophia 2The 40 windows at the dome allow plenty of natural light to enter the interior, and reduce the overall weight of the dome structure.

Hagia Sophia 1The interior of Hagia Sophia contains artifacts from the Byzantine and Ottoman era.

06ME01-22The windows in the dome allow natural light to enter the interior.

06ME01-21Richly decorated with mosaics and marble pillars, Hagia Sophia is the most important example of Byzantine architecture in the world.  One of the highlights for a visit to check out the mosaic work on the upper level.

06ME01-27Outside the building, the splendid fountain built in 1740 is an Ottoman addition after the conversion into a mosque.

fountain behind sophiaServed as a social gathering pavilion outside of the Hagia Sophia, the Fountain of Ahmed III was built in 1728 during the Ottoman era.  The rococo-style fountain stands right outside the gate of Topkapi Palace, the royal palace of the Ottoman Empire.

 

 

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