Hagia Sophia

Considered one of the world’s greatest artistic and architectural achievements, the Hagia Sophia should not be missed when you are in Istanbul.  Here are 5 fast facts about this grand old dame:

1. It is almost 1500 years old, and served as a church for 916 years, and as a mosque for 481 years before finally being converted to a museum.

2.  The Hagia Sophia is actually the third church to be built on this site – the first was built during the period of Constantinos I (312-337) and then repaired during the reign of his son Konstantios (337-361) – sadly it was destroyed by fire in the year 404 during an uprising against Emperor Arcadius.  The second church built on the site also burnt down – this time during the Nika revolt in 532 which saw large parts of Constantinople burnt or destroyed.

3. The current building was ordered by Emperor Justinian I who selected physicist Isidore of Miletus, and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles as the architects. Marble and columns were brought in from all over the empire for its construction. 107 columns support the building which took 5 years and 10 months to build, and was inaugurated on 27 December 537.

4. The dimensions of the church were quite a formidable feat at the time of its construction.  It is 82 metres long, 73 metres wide, and has a dome that is 33 metres in diameter with a crown rising 55 metres from the ground.

5. Emperors following Justinian I each added a variety of stunning mosaics to the church.  These included imperial portraits, images of Christ and Virgin Mary with Jesus as a child.