Updated on September 2, 2023
Hagia Sophia is a beautiful but sad monument. It went through a series of transformations which you can read about in many books. At the same time, Hagia Sophia is one of the most famous photo spots in Istanbul. There’s no wonder it’s on everyone’s Istanbul travel bucket list.
A Glimpse into the History of Hagia Sophia
Originally built as a cathedral under the orders of Emperor Justinian I, the Hagia Sophia has seen the rise and fall of empires and has served various religious functions over the centuries.
It started its journey as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, then transformed into an imperial mosque under the Ottomans, and eventually, in 1935, became the secular museum we know today.
In 2020, it returned to its role as a mosque, yet its complex history is deeply etched into its magnificent walls.
Hagia Sophia – Spiritual Significance, Living Legacy
Throughout its existence, the Hagia Sophia has held profound spiritual significance for both Christians and Muslims.
For Christians, it was the epitome of Byzantine religious architecture and the seat of the Orthodox Church for nearly a millennium. For Muslims, it became a symbol of conquest and faith.
The call to prayer, once again echoing through its halls, adds another layer to its spiritual resonance.
Today, the Hagia Sophia continues to be a symbol of unity in diversity. It stands as a reminder of Istanbul’s enduring capacity to embrace its multicultural past while evolving with the times.
If you visit Hagia Sophia, consider taking a tour at the neighboring Basilica Cistern, as it is well worth your time. This underground reservoir used to provide the needed water supply to the Grand Palace of Constantinople. That’s huge!
Also, while on Sultanahmet Square, search for salep vendors. Salep is a peculiar drink you must taste at least once in a lifetime. The serving ritual is also fun to watch.