Hagia Sofia. Much much more than a touristic cliché!

Yes, Hagia Sofia in Istanbul is a grand touristic cliché; but this is one of those clichés that you really have to follow. The reason for it is that it is not just an ordinary sight. It’s an experience! And, believe me, no one can ever prepare you for that!


Written by Daniel Stuart


Entering this magnificent building you literally find yourself breathless from the vastness of the space and the beauty of it even if you don’t know a thing about the monument’s history. The experience becomes even more powerful when you realize that this church is actually 1500 years-old, it has seen the rise and fall of two glorious empires (Byzantine and Ottoman), became the principal religious site of two religions (Christianity and Islam) and still stands there waiting for the next adventure of human history.

View from the main entrance © cityartnow.com
Feel free to explore every single corner of the church and experience the majestic presence of history from every angle. See essential parts of its former function as a mosque (the mihrab and minbar), along with decorations from the Byzantine era and artefacts taken from ancient Greek and Roman temples (such as the urns from Pergamon) to the Ottoman era. Try to experience the beauty of the building itself. The way the light is filtered through the windows of the dome and the effect that it has over the architectural elements and the enormous scale (smaller in comparison with e.g. St Peter’s in Rome but much more understandable in its vastness).
Tourism Media © 2016 Expedia, Inc
After visiting the ground floor you can find your way towards the upper part of the church; the part where women traditionally attended mass. The “road” that leads to the upper-floor is an actual street (!); a covered spiral way to accomodate the empresses and the members of the nobility who were ascending by horse-drawn vehicles. Entering the upper gallery you can admire the beautiful mosaics at the end of the hall. Search for the Empress Zoe mosaics, depicting Zoe and her third husband Constantine, which has an intriguing history; every time Zoe married a new husband the head of the previous one was scraped off and the head of the new husband replaced it. Also, in a corner of the East gallery, you can spot the tomb of Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo; a tomb that is referred as one of the keys to the mystery of Dan Brown’s (not that exciting) latest book, Inferno.
Tourism Media © 2016 Expedia, Inc
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