Hagia Sophia Museum
Hagia Sophia Ticket Price and Opening Hours
Hagia Sophia has been in the heart of Istanbul’s historical peninsula for 1500 years. Hagia Sophia, one of the miraculous buildings of the ancient world, was built in 5 years and 10 months with 11 thousand people working day and night.
Hagia Sophia Church means The Church of Holy Wisdom. It remained the most important church of Byzantine Constantinople for 900 years. During the Ottoman period, it was the most important mosque in Istanbul. Today, it is a museum that symbolizes the common heritage of both religions.
Hagia Sophia in the Byzantine Period
The construction of the building completed in 537 AD and it was the largest domed building in the world back then. The historians of the period reported that the dome seemed to be chained to the sky. Behind the magnificent glory of Hagia Sophia were two mathematicians, Anthemius and Isidore.
The people of the Middle Ages had difficulty in grasping the fascinating architecture of Hagia Sophia and associated it with mysterious legends. It was believed that the huge dome of Hagia Sophia was carried by four seraphim angels. Hagia Sophia was the first place to hide when an earthquake struck the city or when the enemies besieged the city.
By 557, Hagia Sophia was only 20 years old. The dome was destroyed by a major earthquake that shook the city. The architects were no longer alive, but the patron of the building, Justinian, was still alive. He commissioned an architect known as Young Isidore to rebuild the dome. This young man was the nephew of the original architect Isidore the Elder.
Young Isidore built the dome 7 meters higher than it was before. Thus, the dome of Hagia Sophia reached a height of 56 meters. This dome, built for the second time, has survived to the present day.
Seraphim Angels at the corners of the dome
Hagia Sophia in the Ottoman Period
Constantinople, the last city left from the Byzantine Empire, was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453. Mehmed II, the first Ottoman sultan who entered the city, turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia, which was declared a protocol mosque, was highly respected by the Ottoman sultans for 500 years. In this process, the name of the building was simplified and started to be called Ayasofya by the locals.
Some of the sultans wanted to be buried in the courtyard of Hagia Sophia because it was the most important mosque in the city. Today, the tombs of sultans in the courtyard of Hagia Sophia can be visited free of charge. The tombs dating back to the 16th century offer beautiful examples of Ottoman classical architecture and art.
Each of the Ottoman sultans tried to repair or decorate the Hagia Sophia. For example, the flying buttresses in the eastern wing of the building were built by Sultan Selim II in the 16th century. Sultan Selim, who saw the building leaning to the right, commissioned Mimar Sinan, the most famous architect of Ottoman history, to take immediate action.
During the reign of Sultan Mahmud I, a monumental gate and library were added to the building. Abdulmecid, who built the Dolmabahce Palace, hired the architects Fossati Brothers for a major restoration.
Hagia Sophia in Ottoman Istanbul
Mosaics Of Hagia Sophia
There are three museums to visit in Istanbul for those who are interested in Byzantine mosaic art. The first of these is of course Hagia Sophia. However, Kariye Museum, known as Chora Church in the past, has even more detailed mosaics than Hagia Sophia. In addition, there is the Fethiye Museum, formerly known as Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos.
The most valuable mosaic of Hagia Sophia is the Deesis Mosaic on the second floor. In this mosaic dating from the 13th century, Jesus was depicted with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist.
Byzantine Mosaic Art in Hagia Sophia
Why The Hagia Sophia Is So Famous?
Hagia Sophia was the highest domed temple in the world at the time of its construction. During the Renaissance, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was rebuilt with dimensions exceeding Hagia Sophia. Other major cathedrals were built in Europe over time. However, even today, Hagia Sophia is among the top 20 religious structures in the world.
The architects who built Hagia Sophia had used a technique to be admired for centuries. The single dome in the center of Hagia Sophia and the two semi-domes surrounding it create a giant prayer area in the center. The fact that the dome can be easily viewed from every corner of the building is a feature that is not even found in famous cathedrals.
Hagia Sophia Ticket Price 2020
The entrance fee for Hagia Sophia was around 100 Turkish Liras when it was a museum. Since it was converted into a mosque in July 2020, there is no entrance fee. You may consider buying Istanbul Museum Pass, if you will visit Topkapi Palace and other nearby museums.
Hagia Sophia Visiting Hours 2020
Hagia Sophia can be visited between 09:00 am and 5:00 pm. The Mosque will be open to visitors except for prayer hours. The visiting hours will be the same as the neighboring Blue Mosque.
In Sultanahmet, the heart of Istanbul Old City, mosques close one hour before prayer time and open half an hour later. For example, if the noon prayer is at 13:00, the mosque will be closed between 12:00 and 13:30.
This is the link to check current praying hours for Istanbul.
Where is Hagia Sophia and How To Get There?
Hagia Sophia Museum is located in Sultanahmet neighborhood of Fatih District. Fatih is the name of Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula. Therefore it’s very centrally located and accesible from Taksim, Karakoy, Galata, Sirkeci or Eminonu easily. These are the location where popular hotels located.
Major public transportation vehicle is tram to get to Hagia Sophia Museum. If you leave the tram at Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque) Tram Station, you can easily walk to Hagia Sophia which is only five minutes walk from there.
Hagia Sophia Location Map
Historical monuments such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque are within walking distance of each other. If you come to Sultanahmet Tram Station, you will be a few minutes’ walk from these tourist spots. If you click on the link at the bottom of the map you can view the map as a full resolution PNG file. This map is from the travel blog Istanbul Clues.