Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

Historical Context

The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) is the third church to be built in this site. The Byzantine emperor Justinian I ordered its construction in 532 after riots destroyed an earlier church on its site in Istanbul.

It was finished in just five years in 537 and was then the world's largest building. It served as the Greek Orthodox cathedral and was the place where Eastern Emperors were crowned.

Regarded as the height of Byzantine architecture it is famous for its massive dome and for its mosaic decoration inside. It stood as the world's largest church for nearly a thousand years, only surpassed by Seville's cathedral in 1520.

After the conquest of Istanbul by Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453 the church was converted into a mosque. In 1935 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made it into a museum, which it remains.

Monument Info


Location: Istanbul (historically Constantinople), Turkey

Related Events

  • 0537-12-27 Hagia Sophia inaugurated by the Emperor Justinian I as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral
  • 0558-05-07 In Constantinople, the dome of the Hagia Sophia collapses. Justinian I immediately orders the dome rebuilt.
  • 0563-12-24 The Byzantine church Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is dedicated for the second time after being destroyed by earthquakes.
  • 0843-03-11 Icon veneration officially re-instated in Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople
  • 1054-07-16 Three Roman legates fracture relations between Western and Eastern Christian churches by placing invalid Papal Bull of Excommunication on altar of Hagia Sophia during liturgy. Often dated start of the East-West Schism.
  • 2020-07-10 Sixth century cathedral Hagia Sophia turned into a mosque by decree issued by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (converted to a mosque 1453-1934)

Historical Monuments