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Hagia Sophia Facts

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul attracts over 1.5 million visitors, ranking Turkey’s most visited landmark. 

A stunning example of Byzantine architecture, it boasts abundant mosaics, bronze doors, marbled floors, and intricate stone inlays. 

With a history spanning over 1,500 years, this iconic structure holds numerous interesting facts about the Hagia Sophia, waiting to be discovered by curious explorers.

Hagia Sophia was not its first name.

When the Hagia Sophia was first constructed, it was known as the Great Church or Megale Ekklesia.

The Hagia Sophia earned the name Magna Ecclesia because of its impressive size.

However, it was commonly referred to as Sophia starting from the 5th century. 

Despite this, the Great Church remained a popular name for the majestic structure.

In 1453, the church’s name was officially changed to “Hagia Sophia,” which is still in use today. Despite popular belief, the church was not named after a saint named Sophia. 

The name Hagia Sophia comprises Aya (meaning holy or saint) and Sophos (meaning wisdom), which translates to divine or holy wisdom. 

The church used one of the Seven Ancient Wonders in its construction.

The church used one of the Seven Ancient Wonders in its construction
Image: Twitter.com

During its construction, the builders of Hagia Sophia sourced materials from Europe.

They imported Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis and large stones from Egyptian quarries.

They also got green marble from Thessaly, black stone from the Bosporus region, and yellow stone from Syria.

All these materials were essential to bring the church to its current glory.

Viking Writing

A Viking inscription, apparently from the 9th century, adorns the marble railings in the middle of the south gallery. 

It reads, “Halvdan was here,” indicating that a Viking soldier who worked as a mercenary in the army of Eastern Rome had left his mark.

Wish Column 

The south gallery of Hagia Sophia has a Viking inscription from the 9th century.

 The northwest direction has a column called the sweating column.

One legend says that people turn their thumbs in the hole in the column one full turn clockwise to make a wish.

Built thrice

 Earlier, the Hagia Sophia was a wooden basilica in the 4th century.

 Its builders completed the church during the reign of Emperor Konstantinos. 

The first building burned down in 404, and Emperor Theodosius rebuilt it with five naves. 

The second church was burned again during the Nika uprising in 532.

This incident led to the commissioning of Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletos to build a larger church. 

Construction began on February 23, and they completed the present structure on December 27, 537, during Justinian’s reign. 

The Dome 

Its architects used marble, stone, and brick to construct the Hagia Sophia.

They sourced special, light, and strong bricks from Rhodes soil for the dome.

This was to secure the dome from earthquakes.

They also innovated by creating a large church.

Hagia Sophia’s dome is not perfectly round but slightly oval, measuring 31 meters from East to West and 32.5 meters from North to South. 

It stands at a height of 56.22 meters and features a calligraphic inscription of the 35th verse of Surah an-Nur at its center.

Its builders needed a team of 10,000 workers to construct the dome of the Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia was ready in a short time.

The Hagia Sophia was constructed using marble, stone, and brick, with special bricks from Rhodes. 

Its dome is 55.60 meters tall with a diameter of 31.87 meters north-south and 30.86 meters east-west. 

Unlike the Notre Dame Cathedral, which took almost a century to build, the Hagia Sophia’s construction was short.

It took an astonishingly short span of 5 years, 10 months, and 4 days without the aid of machines. 

Click here to know more about its history.

You can see this marvel and hear more about its construction with an entry ticket and guided tour

Choose from the variety of tickets and personally explore this masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. For more information, check out Hagia Sophia tickets.

Plan your visit to Hagia Sophia easily by checking the visiting hours, finding convenient ways to reach the location, and ensuring hassle-free parking arrangements.

Featured Image: Tripadvisor.com

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