Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) Complex

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Haghia Sophia Mosque & Complex is located in Sultanahmet across from Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Considered one of the finest architectural works in the world, it was originally built as a church. Construction began during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, but was completed in AD 360, during the reign of Constantine II. The first Haghia Sophia was partially burnt during an uprising. It was repaired by Theodosius II and opened to worship in 415, but was burned to the ground during another public uprising in 532. After the revolts, Emperor Junstinian decided to build a great temple here, and apportioned the task to Isidoros and Anthemios, two western-Anatolian architects. Building materials were brought in from all the Mediterranean countries. In addition, the columns of a number of pagan temples in Anatolia, including the Temple of Artemis, were dismantled and used in the building. The construction lasted five years, and Haghia Sophia became open to worship once again. The stru

Haghia Sophia was occasionally damaged, but was repaired and additions to the structure were built. Despite the changes, its essence remains untouched. Haghia Sophia experienced its darkest days during the Latin occupation; it was looted, damaged and a number of its valuable furnishings were removed and taken to the churches of Europe. When the city once again got into the control of the Byzantines, the church was in terrible condition. Using limited resources, efforts were made to restore it. It was then badly damaged in the earthquake of 1344 in which parts of it, including a section of the dome, collapsed. The increasingly impoverished Byzantines were unable to repair it and it remained closed for a period. Through the levy of special taxes and collection of donations, the church was once again repaired in 1354.

Despite these efforts, Haghia Sophia was not to return to its full glory after the Latin occupation untill the conquest of Istanbul. Immediately following the conquest of the city, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror went directly to Haghia Sophia. However, it was in ruins. He decided on that day to convert the church to into a mosque, and thus a new period began for Haghia Sophia.

From the first day it bacame a mosque, Haghia Mosque bacame a place of enormous significiance of Moslims living within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, as well as others. For hundreds of years it has symbolised and been a reminder of the conquest of Istanbul.

The Conqueror created variour pious foundations with the aim of ensuring revenue and constructed a mihrab (mosque niche), minaret and medresse. Haghia Sophia was shown special attention after the conquest, and the additions built on its ground turned it into a great 'kulliye' or religious complex. One minaret was added by Sultan Bayezid II and a second by Sultan Selim II. Sultan Mahmud I added a reservoir for ablutions, a primary school, a soup kitchen, a library, a chamber for sultans and a mosque niche. The mosaics were completely plastered over; previously, only the faces had been covered. During this period a number of sultans and members of royalty were buried in the complex. They include: Sultan Selim II, Sultan Murad III, Sultan Mehmed III, Sultan Mustafa I and Sultan Ibrahim.

Haghia Sophia underwent minor repairs during the Republican period, but was left relatively alone during the war years. American scientists obtained permission from the Turkish government to uncover the mosaics in 1932. While these works were underway, without any legal decree, Haghia Sophia was changed into a museum in 1934 and opened to the public in 1935. This mosque presently functions as a museum.

The dome of the mosque, believed to represent the infinity of the cosmos, is most impressive. To think that this dome was built in the 530's contributes even more to the importance of the mosque. Despite being damaged, the mosaics found within Haghia Sophia are among the most precious in the world. The additions of the Ottomans, far from spoiling its original beauty, have only reinforced its magnificiance. The calligraphies, on plates 7.5 meters in diameter, the stone work, which gives it a lace-like appearance, and the glazed tiles are all priceless. The primary school, tombs, foundations and reservoir which make up the complex are also of major significance from an architectural standpoint.