The city of Istanbul is home to a major Byzantine architectural work: St. Sophia Church, which now serves as the Ayasofya Museum (meaning 'sacred wisdom'). Both the inside and the outside of this spectacular creation display a very rich past that it has managed to survive through the years despite the various different stages and transformations that have taken place during its history. In 360 AD, for example, on the very spot where St. Sophia now stands, Emperor Constantine ordered that a (wooden) church be built at the very heart of the city centre. Following a fire that destroyed it, the construction of another stronger, even more impressive church was ordered by Byzantine emperor Theodosius and was completed in 416. There are some actual ruins that can be seen to this day in the current church-museum. It was only under the rule of Emperor Justinian that the building we now know was completed, following what is believed to have been 5 to 10 years of construction. St. Sophia was originally used as a Christian religious temple until the Turks seized Istanbul in 1453. From then until 1934, it was used as a mosque and holy place for devout Muslims. In order to complete this transformation, four minarets, which can still be seen, were added inside. The greatest transformation happened under the rule of the Ottoman Emperor. Eventually, on 1st February 1935, and following some costly renovations, it was converted into the museum we see here today. It is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm, every day except Mondays, and the entrance fee is around 20 Turkish lira (around £9). The museum stands opposite Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque.
Saint Sophia was turned into a mosque in the 15th century.© Anna Jedynak / 123RF
In Greek, Saint Sophia represents divine wisdom.© Artur Bogacki / 123RF
Damaged by humidity, the wall paintings were perfectly restored.© Marco Toninelli / EASYVOYAGE
Saint Sophia is one of the most beautiful representations of Byzantine architecture.© Marco Toninelli / EASYVOYAGE
The dome of Saint Sophia has a diameter of around 30m.© Marco Toninelli / EASYVOYAGE