Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Ayasofya) is situated on a hill overlooking the Sea of Marmara and the
Bosporus and greets far visibly incoming cruise ships to Istanbul with
its minarets and magnificent dome. 532-537 emperor Justinian I erected
the greatest Church in the ancient Christian world. The bold structure
was a combination of Roman Basilica and domed Roman central building,
the central element of which was a dome with a diameter of 101,7
ft (31 m) and a height of 160,7 ft. (49 m) after the example of
Hadrian'sPantheon in Rome. Neither in Byzantine nor Osmane days
this dimension ever was surpassed. After several seismic shocks
however the dome imploded in 558. The dome we see today is 23 ft
(7 m) higher and was consecrated in 562.
Daylight is flooding the church through 91 windows, illuminating
the incredible beauty of the interior, which is adorned with marble
tiles, elaborate, colourful mosaics and pictures, created from ceramics,
precious and semiprecious stones, gold... The structure of the interior
and the play of light convey the impression of weightlessness,
which certainly contributed to the churches legendary fame.
Thanks to its grandeur and beauty the church served as a house
of God, even under the reign of Osmane Sultans, all together for
almost 1400 years! After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453
by the Turks under Mehmed II, the Hagia Sophia was used as mosque
until the Turkish republic was founded in 1923! Today it is a museum.