Istanbul – Hagia Sophia:
Still one of the oldest church buildings in the world and for a nearly a thousand years it was the largest and tallest cathedral in existence.
The original church built on this land was burnt during riots in 404, and a second and larger basilica replaced it in 415.
During an uprising 532 which broke out after a chariot race at the nearby Hippodrome where ten thousands of residents of the city were killed, the structure was again destroyed. This was the “Nika” revolt which was directed against Emperor Justinian.
The third Hagia Sophia was constructed in 537 in 5 years, amazingly quickly considering the times. Since then it has served as a cathedral, mosque and now a museum. When it was first constructed, Constantinople was the capital of the eastern Roman Empire.
When the Ottoman’s conquered Constantinople in 1453 it was converted into a mosque until 1931 and reopened as a museum in 1935.
Inside Hagia Sophia
This picture illustrates the intersection of Islam and Christianity as it applies to Hagia Sophia’s history. Here we see the staircase on the right for the Imam’s mimbar where he sits when giving his sermon and the mihrab which indicates the direction to pray (towards mecca). Notice how the mihrab is off center as a result of the building not being intended to be a mosque.
We visited during Ramadan which was very fortunate. After sunset, there is a festival held in Hippodrome area that compares to the Chriskindlesmarkt’s in Germany.