Hagia Sophia, which is considered one of the eight wonders of the world, occupies a prominent place in the history of art and architecture. It is one of the rare works of this size and age that has survived to the present.
Hagia Sophia (from the Greek Ἁγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom"; Turkish Ayasofya) is a former Greek Orthodox basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum. From the date it was built in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.
The church was dedicated to the Wisdom of God, the Logos, the second person in the Holy Trinity. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. It remained the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was built in 1520. The current building was originally erected as a church between 532 and 537 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was the third church of the Holy Wisdom on that site, the previous two were both destroyed by rioters. It was designed by the Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician.
The church contained a large collection of holy relics, among others a 15-metre silver iconostasis. Being the centre of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years, the building witnessed the excommunication of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius on the part of Pope Leo IX in 1054, an act which is commonly considered the start of the Great Schism.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II, who ordered this main church of the Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque. By this point, the Church had fallen into a state of disrepair. The bells, altar, iconostasis, sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, Mother Mary, Christian saints and angels were also removed or plastered over. Islamic features, such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets, were added. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey.
From its initial conversion until the construction of the nearby larger Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque of Istanbul) in 1616, it was the principal mosque of Istanbul. Hagia Sophia was a source of inspiration for many other Ottoman mosques, such as the Blue Mosque, the Şehzade Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque and the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque.
The museum is open daily except on Mondays from 9 am to 7 pm in summer (April to October) and 9 am to 4.30 pm in winter (November to March). The entrance costs 25 TL per person.