Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country’s economic, cultural and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait (which separates Europe and Asia) between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives in suburbs on the Asian side of the Bosporus. With a total population of around fifteen million residents in its metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the world’s largest cities, ranking as the world’s fifth-largest city proper and the largest city in Europe. Hagia Sophia is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Built in 537 during the reign of Justinian. It is famous for its large dome. It was the world’s largest building and an engineering marvel of its time. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture”.”
All the wealth, all the greatness and all the technical genius of Byzantium are displayed in the huge church Hagia Sophia. The walls and pillars are richly adorned with green and purple marble, and in the semi-darkness of the interior, sophisticated mosaics with gold leaf shine.
A complex arrangement of arches and semi-domes leads the view to the massive golden central dome. The light poured through 40 windows from the base of the dome, creating the impression that it was floating in height – or, as the Byzantines believed, suspended from the sky with a gold chain. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia became a mosque and many of the mosaics were covered with plaster. Brought to light in 1934, when the building became a museum, the mosaics amaze visitors with refinement and complexity. Above, in the apse, is a mosaic depicting Mary with the Baby. With her delicate features contrasting with her pale skin, she looks down, revealing the feelings of those walking through the woods.
Hagia Sophia is located in Sultanahmet Square in the old part of town.
What else to do?
- The Deisis mosaic, from the 14th century, is famous for its refinement and for the deeply human expressions of the figures of Jesus, John the Baptist and Mary.
- The central entrance, on the west side of the nave, called the Imperial Gate, is used only by the emperor and his suite. Above it is a mosaic representing Christ the Pantocrator (King of the Universe).
- Near the Hagia Sophia, in the southeast, there are three mausoleums of some Sultans. The ones on the right belong to Murat III, buried in 1599, after leaving 103 children.
When to go to Istanbul?
…the article inspired by [national geographic] 500 sacred places to visit