Istanbul's Hagia Sophia: The History Of Its Architecture

By Cyn Felthousen-Post
Hagia Sophia at morning twilight. Source: (gettyimages.com)

The Hagia Sophia is one of the most historically and architecturally significant buildings in all of human civilization. Originally built as a Christian basilica by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 537 CE, the structure was then converted to a mosque by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II after the fall of Constantinople, and became a secular museum in 1935 under the administration of President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

This nearly 1500-year-old building has borne witness to different civilizations, empires, and peoples, but its history is not as widely understood as that of the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, or Big Ben, for example. This is changing as the tourism industry in Turkey matures, but, for those of us who won’t be jetting off to Istanbul anytime soon, here is a brief introduction to the history of the Hagia Sophia.