Basilica of Hagia Sophia

Basilica of Hagia SophiaThe Basilica of Hagia Sophia stands in Istanbul, Turkey and is actually now a museum rather than a church. It was first a basilica, then converted to a mosque before it became a museum as it is now. The church was built in the fourth century AD in what was Constantinople at the time, and its name is derived from the Greek for ‘Holy Wisdom’. The church was the focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church until 1453, at which point Constantinople was conquered by the Turks and the church was converted into a mosque by order of the Sultan. At this point, it was changed. The Christian elements of the church were removed and Muslim elements, such as the minarets, added.

In 1935, the building was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey. The architecture of the Basilica is considered one of the great works in Byzantine culture and has heavily influenced architecture since then. The interior is decorated with the most beautiful mosaics (which were covered once the building was turned into a mosque due to Islam’s ban on representative art, but they were uncovered again later), marble pillars and stone columns. The interior is unbelievably vast and gives off an impression of grandeur.

The dome of the monument is supported by pendentives, an incredible innovation that had never been used before the construction of the Basilica. This makes for a very graceful transition between the dome and the walls, but it is also architectonically speaking a huge achievement. The special way the light falls into the Basilica is bound to fascinate anyone who visits it. The rich history of the church makes for a mix of Christian and Islamic art on its walls, as both types have been partly conserved during the restoration. This has been controversial as the Islamic art often covers the Christian art, so there is a debate about which to show, but both are interesting to see.

The use of the monument as a place of worship is forbidden today, even though there are campaigns to once again use it as a church. As stated before in the article about the Acropolis, you could combine the visit to Turkey with one to Greece. While you are in the area, Bulgaria is also a very interesting country to see. It has many impressive Orthodox churches and the most beautiful rose fields. Also, South Eastern Europe is quite a cheap area to travel in so aside from train or coach costs themselves, overnight stays and food will cost you very little comparatively.