Aya Sofya - The Church of the Divine Wisdom
Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia in Greek) is one of the most impressive and important buildings ever constructed.
Its wide, flat dome was a daring engineering feat in the 6th century, and architects still marvel at the building's many innovations. Called Hagia Sophia in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin, Aya Sofya in Turkish, it was built on the site of Byzantium's acropolis by Emperor Justinian (527-65 AD) in 537 AD. Aya Sofya was the greatest church in Christendom until St Peter's Basilica was built in Rome a thousand years later.
Aya Sofya is awe-inspiring - one of the first things to see when you're in Istanbul. Luckily, it's right next to Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Byzantine Hippodrome, and right across the street from Yerebatan, the Sunken Palace Cistern.
The 30 million gold tesserae (tiny mosaic tiles) which cover the church's interior, especially the dome, are now being restored to the brilliance they boasted 1500 years ago. This means the interior is filled with scaffolding, and will be so for years to come. This may spoil photos, but not the church's grandeur. You'll still enjoy your visit here.
Istanbul Aya Sofya Museum Adres:
Sultanahmet Meydani - Eminönü, Istanbul
Tel: (0212) 528 45 00
Fax: (0212) 512 54 74
Open every day except Monday.