Hagia Sophia is a historical building that was built three times in the same place. Today’s Hagia Sophia is known as the “Third Hagia Sophia”. The first construction of Hagia Sophia was started during the reign of Constantine I, who accepted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. The opening of this structure, which was built as a wooden-roofed basilica on the first of Istanbul’s seven hills and known as the ‘Great Church’ at that time, was inaugurated in 360 by II. It took place during the reign of Constantine. However, there is no remnant of this building, which was largely destroyed as a result of a fire that broke out in the rebellion that started in 404.
Second Hagia Sophia, Emperor II. It was built by Theodosius on the first one and opened to worship as a church in 415. Again, this structure, which was built in the form of a basilica and with a wooden roof, was looted and destroyed by the rebels in the Nika Revolt against Emperor Justinian in 532. Right after the rebellion, Emperor Justinian decided to build a much larger and more magnificent Hagia Sophia than the first two. The Third Hagia Sophia was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 532-537.
Hagia Sophia, which was used as the Imperial Church of Eastern Rome, has been frequently destroyed by rebellions, wars and natural disasters throughout history. Hagia Sophia suffered one of the greatest destructions when the city was invaded during the 4th Crusade in 1204. The Crusaders looted Hagia Sophia along with the entire city. During the Latin occupation in Istanbul from 1204 to 1261, Hagia Sophia was transformed into a cathedral affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Having suffered serious damage, Hagia Sophia was tried to be kept alive with repairs after the East Roman administration was restored in Istanbul. However, the repairs were insufficient and in 1346 the eastern arch and part of the dome of Hagia Sophia collapsed.
Ottoman Conquest of Istanbul
In fact, in the period from the Latin invasion to the conquest of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia experienced its darkest age. Hagia Sophia, which was destroyed twice and built for the third time, destroyed due to wars and rebellions for centuries, and certain parts collapsed due to neglect and architectural errors, continued its existence under the constant danger of destruction until the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed Han. In addition, the sociological and symbolic meaning of the temple was damaged due to the Catholic-Orthodox sectarian strife.
The Ottomans, since the time of Fatih Sultan Mehmed Han, have paid great attention to the Hagia Sophia Mosque, which they accepted and valued as the token of the conquest, continued its maintenance-repair activities and made the mosque a much stronger structure than before. Especially the additions and arrangements made by Mimar Sinan to Hagia Sophia played a major role in the survival of this human heritage.
Fatih Sultan Mehmed Han, who dedicated the Hagia Sophia Mosque as his own charity and guaranteed the maintenance and repair costs by connecting a large number of mites, first started education activities by having a madrasah built next to the mosque. The first minaret of Hagia Sophia was built of wood during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror. This minaret, which has existed for many years, was removed during the major repairs in 1574. The second minaret of Hagia Sophia Mosque, Sultan II. It was built of brick during the reign of Bayezid Han. One of the Ottoman sultans who showed the most interest in Hagia Sophia was Sultan II. Selim Han. Upon the building showing signs of fatigue II. Selim Han commissioned Sinan the Architect for the maintenance and repair of Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia, whose domes and walls collapsed many times during the Eastern Roman period, never collapsed after the arrangements of Mimar Sinan, despite many great earthquakes in Istanbul. Sultan II. also contributed to the construction of the sultan’s tombs around Hagia Sophia. The graveyard of the Hagia Sophia Complex for Selim Han began with the first tomb built by Mimar Sinan.
Serving as a mosque for 481 years, Hagia Sophia was closed to the public with the start of restoration work in the 1930s. Then, it was turned into a museum by a decision of the Council of Ministers dated 24 November 1934. It has been opened to worship since July 10, 2020. Hagia Sophia Mosque, which is one of the most striking works among historical buildings in Istanbul, is visited by millions of tourists every year.
The Hagia Sophia Mosque, which you should definitely add to your list of places to visit in Istanbul, fascinates its visitors with its architecture. It is an important work for both the Islamic and Christian world. Hagia Sophia is called Ayasofya Camii by the Turks. You should spend 1 hour here on your holiday in Istanbul. Moreover, it is very close to structures such as Topkapi Palace, Archeology Museum, Yerebatan Sarnıcı.