Hagia Sophia - History and Facts | History Hit

Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia is a world famous 6th century church-turned-mosque in Istanbul.

Lily Johnson

17 May 2021

About Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia, or ‘Ayasofya’ in Turkish, is a world-famous 6th century church-turned-mosque in Istanbul, whose blended architectural styles and vast proportions have installed it as Turkey’s most-visited attraction.

Hagia Sophia history

Whilst the original Hagia Sofia was built in the 4th century by Constantine the Great, very little remains of this structure, nor the one built after it in the 5th century. The current building dates back to between 532 and 537 AD, during which time it was constructed under the order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

The architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles designed the Hagia Sophia in the Byzantine style, with aspects such as its impressive dome a typical feature. At this time, the Hagia Sophia served as a central religious base for the Eastern Orthodox Church.

When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the building was converted to a mosque under the orders of Sultan Mehmed II. It was during its time that several dominant architectural features were added, such as the minarets at each of its four corners and the mihrab.

In 1934 the Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum in a drive to secularise Turkey, and soon became the country’s most popular tourist attraction. In 2020 however its museum status was reversed in a controversial move by Turkish President Erdogan, and it is today once again a site of Muslim worship.

Hagia Sophia today

Today the Hagia Sophia functions as a mosque yet allows visitors of all faiths and nationalities through its doors. Remnants of the first two Hagia Sophias may be viewed as well as the current building with its vast domed ceiling and ornate Muslim altars and chapels.

Outside, cannonballs used by Mehmet the Conqueror during his invasion of the city line the paths and there is an 18th century fountain for ritual ablutions.

The Hagia Sophia is a beautiful mixture of Muslim and Christian influences and architecture, including its stunning Byzantine mosaics, which can be seen in the higher galleries for a further fee. Guides can also be booked to view the Hagia Sophia in all its glory, with information about its fascinating history to match.

This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.

Getting to the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia is located in the centre of Istanbul in Turkey, and can be reached via the 0-3 and D020 roads. Istanbul Airport is a 45 minute drive away, and the Sultanahmet tram stop is a 5-minute walk away.

Featured In

Constantine the Great Sites

Follow in the footsteps of Constantine the Great from the Hagia Sophia to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and more, includes an interactive map of Emperor Constantine I locations.

Turkey Historic Sites

Travel the 10 best historic sites in Turkey with this guide featuring unmissable sites such as the beautiful Hagia Sophia to the Iron Age fortress of Van Castle.