Without doubt the Hagia Sophia - Ayasofya in Turkish - is the most famous building in Istanbul. "Hagia Sophia" comes from the Greek and means "Holy Wisdom". Built in 537 AD during the Byzantine Empire it is also one of the oldest buildings in the city. It started out as a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, was later converted into an Ottoman mosque and has served as a museum since 1935 when it was secularized. (Warning: this is a very photo-heavy post)
We visited the Hagia Sophia on our second day in Istanbul, after we had seen the Blue Mosque - just across from the Ayasofya - the day before. I'm glad that we did it in this sequence, because this basilica converted mosque converted museum pretty much blew me away.
But before we ventured further we walked up the switchback ramp to the upstairs galleries. I loved the worn stone slabs shining with age.
Both the downstairs narthex and the galleries have beautiful ceilings, and everywhere you can notice the age of the building. Restoration work is continuously going on here. And look at those gorgeous columns!
But the crème de la crème are the mosaics.
They simply took my breath away. I will spare you my raving over them and just post pictures of them, leaving them to your own judgment. And if you're not into mosaics, just scroll down.
Let's look up one more time and then go down again at the end of the gallery.
While I loved the mosaics and spent a very long time on the galleries, my favorite feature of the Ayasofya was downstairs - the chandeliers. They were added during the Ottoman Empire. Pure eye candy and I was drooling over (well, under) them.
Eventually - reluctantly - we left; but there are so many beautiful things to discover outside as well.
Of course we can't forget the Ayasofya cats... this is just one of them.
It is beautiful at night as well, especially with the blue fountain in the foreground.
We just had to climb up to the roof terrace of our hotel to see the beauty of it.