Home Istanbul Cultural Tours

Istanbul Cultural Tours

Private tour Istanbul, Hagia Sophia – a symbol of tolerance and harmony

Private tour Istanbul can help get an answer of if it is a Church? A Mosque? A Museum?

One thing is sure, though – it’s a place where religions meet. You can see Islamic art and Christian architecture blend blissfully. Hagia Sophia stands as a symbol of Istanbul throughout time. A symbol of timeless majesty!

Visit Hagia Sophia (as the Greek know it) or Aya Sofia (in Turkish) or St.Sophia, or simply the Church of Holy Wisdom (as they call it in English). You will find it really enjoyable for all the history, inspiration and beauty it offers.

In answer to the question if Hagia Sophia was a church, a mosque or a museum – it has been in fact all three! We will see all the answers in our city tour Istanbul.

Until the 16th century Istanbul’s most famous monument was the largest enclosed space in the world. For almost a thousand years Hagia Sophia maintained its status as the largest Christian church.

Built at the command of Emperor Justinian in the years 532 to 537, Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a church. Then it became a mosque and now it is a museum. Ataturk, the first president and the founder of modern Turkey, turned it into a museum in 1935. Justinian’s church was ready in less than 6 years. And it reigned as the greatest church in Christendom until the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Mehmet the Conqueror penetrated the city

When Mehmet the Conqueror penetrated the city in 1453, his first official stop was to this overwhelming symbol of an empire that he had conquered. And with his head to the ground, he invoked the name of Allah and declared the great house of worship a mosque. Then people removed the Christian Icons and desecrated the mosaics on the walls. And after that the plaster over the walls. The Muslims then installed Arabic writings from the Koran all over the church. Four minarets appeared and the gold cross on the top of the dome disappeared. Instead of it, there sood a brass crescent to signify that it was now a mosque. It is now as significant to Muslims as it is to Christians.

Emperor Justinian chose the two architects of the day: Anthemius of Tralles (Aydin) and Isidorus of Miletus to build it. hus he kept his promise to buld a church like no other. It took 5 years and 4 months for the construction of the Hagia Sophia. It happened in A.D. 537. Then the emperor raised his hands to heaven and proclaimed, “Glory to God who has deigned to let me finish so great a work. O Solomon, I have outdone thee!” What the two architects did, without the benefits of today’s technology, remains unequalled.