Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia)
The Aya Sofya (also known as Hagia Sophia) was originally built as a Christian church in the fourth century by Constantine the Great. Following the destruction of Constantine's church, a second was built by his son Constantius and the emperor Theodosius the Great. This second church was burned down in the year 532, though some fragments can be seen today. The Aya Sofya was then rebuilt in her present form between 532 and 537 under the personal supervision of Emperor Justinian I. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings.
For over 900 years the Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for church councils and imperial ceremonies. In 1204 the cathedral was ruthlessly attacked, desecrated and plundered by the Crusaders, who also ousted the Patriarch of Constantinople and replaced him with a Latin bishop. Despite this violent setback, Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque.
The Aya Sofya served as the principal mosque of Istanbul for almost 500 years. It became a model for many of the Ottoman mosques of Istanbul
such as the Blue Mosque and others. No major structural changes were made at first; the addition of a
wooden minaret made a mosque out of the church. Various additions were made over the centuries by successive sultans.The most famous restoration of the
Aya Sofya was completed between 1847-49 by Abdülmecid II, who invited Swiss architects to renovate the mosque. The brothers consolidated the dome and vaults,
straightened columns,and revised the decoration of the exterior and the interior.
More detailed information can be found on the site Sacred Destinations.
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The Aya Sofya is not only a neighboor of the Blue Mosque, it was also a model for the latter.