ISTANBUL – Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, meaning “Holy Wisdom,” is a renowned cultural and historical site in Istanbul, Türkiye. Officially known as the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, it has undergone numerous transformations, reflecting the rich and diverse history of the region.

Constructed between 532 and 537 AD by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, Hagia Sophia was initially a Christian cathedral designed by Greek architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. It became the largest interior space globally and a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, renowned for its massive dome and innovative design.

Originally a Chalcedonian church from 360 AD, it transitioned to an Eastern Orthodox cathedral following the Great Schism of 1054 and briefly served as a Catholic cathedral during the Fourth Crusade. It reverted to Orthodox control in 1261 and remained so until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror converted it into a mosque, adding Islamic architectural elements like minarets and a mihrab, while many Christian mosaics were plastered over.

Hagia Sophia functioned as Istanbul’s principal mosque until 1935 when it was secularized and opened as a museum under the Turkish Republic. This status persisted until 2020 when it was reclassified as a mosque, a decision that sparked international debate and criticism.

Throughout its history, Hagia Sophia has been an architectural and cultural icon, influencing both Christian and Islamic structures. Its significance as a religious and historical symbol continues to evoke strong emotions and discussions globally.

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