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Hagia Sophia Opens as a Mosque for the First Time in 86 Years

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The reopening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque on Friday 24 July 2020 has become one of the top-trending stories around the world. The event took the news and social media by storm. It seems as if a chain of surprising incidents is triggered around the globe ever since the beginning of the year 2020 including this historic event.

So, if you are interested in knowing more about this Muslim architectural marvel, then you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ll take a look at the Hagia Sophia’s history including its repurposing over the decades, and architecture. 

In this article, we are also going to bring you the latest updates on Hagia Sophia, which is now officially given the status of the Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Let’s go exploring!

History of Hagia Sophia 

The story of Hagia Sophia started as a Cathedral built by the Romans hundreds of years ago. The present-day Istanbul was known as Constantinople then. It was ruled by the Byzantine Empire.

Later, the history of Constantinople took an interesting turn when it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453. It was the end of the Byzantine empire in the region. After the conquest, the Ottoman Empire took many prominent steps that changed the course of Turkey’s history. They renamed Constantinople as Istanbul and officially declared it as the empire’s capital.

Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire ordered the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque from a cathedral. This is how it became one of the largest mosques in Istanbul. For centuries, it kept serving as a mosque. 

It wasn’t until the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s when Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, who was an emerging leader of the country back then. All these events make this structure one of the most famous historical places in Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia retained its status as a museum, which was named after the city of Istanbul, for around 86 years. Now, let’s take a close look at the architecture of one of the largest mosques in Turkey before we give you the latest updates on Hagia Sophia.

Architecture of Hagia Sophia

The interior of this grand structure has marble pillars and mosaics. This increases its overall aesthetics. Constructed as a cathedral in the 6th century, the building’s extraordinary and grand architecture reflects its glorious past. It has been so artistically decorated, which leaves history buffs in awe.

The structure of Hagia Sophia has been categorised as masonry construction. It is a perfect combination of brick and mortar joints. Moreover, the combination of sand and potsherds, which is used in the construction of the building, was largely used in building material called Roman concrete. It is actually the predecessor of modern concrete. 

All these interesting structural elements of one of the largest mosques in Turkey make it among the most intriguing historical places in Istanbul.

The vast interior of Hagia Sophia has a complex structure. Central Dome of the structure covers the nave which reaches the maximum height of 55.6 m (182 ft 5 in) from floor level. There are also 40 arched windows, adding to the aesthetic beauty of the mosque.

Did You Know: Through the course of history, the structure has gone through many major and minor repairs. This has stretched the dome elliptically. Although the structural change is minor it is noteworthy. The diameter has changed between 31.24 and 30.86 m that is around 102 ft 6 inches and 101 ft 3 inches, respectively.

Latest Updates on Hagia Sophia

It all started in early July in 2020 when one of the courts in Turkey annulled the status of Hagia Sophia as the Istanbul Museum. As discussed, the historic event of the reopening of one of the largest mosques in Turkey took place on July 24, 2020. The Friday congregational prayers were organised at the venue for the first time in decades. 

Thousands of Muslims took part in it. Due to coronavirus social distancing, only a few hundred people performed prayers inside the mosque while the rest of the worshippers prayed outside. As per the latest updates on Hagia Sophia, it will also continue serving as one of the tourist attractions in Turkey. 

Ibrahim Khan the official spokesperson for Erdogan said, “Opening up Hagia Sophia to worship won’t keep local or foreign tourists from visiting the site”. 

Note: The above-mentioned quotation has been fetched from the official website of National Geographic UK.

Now, let’s take a look at the names of some other key tourist attractions in Turkey found in Istanbul.

Popular Tourist Attractions in Istanbul 

Along with the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, the former Istanbul Museum, there are many other popular tourist attractions in Istanbul. The metropolis is the epicentre of Turkey’s culture and history. So, let’s list down some famous places to visit in Istanbul. 

  • Top Kapi Palace Museum – built in the reign of Ottoman Empire

  • Çamlıca Mosque – Turkey’s largest Mosque

  • The Blue Mosque – An architectural masterpiece

  • Grand Bazaar – One of Turkey’s oldest covered markets founded in the 15th century

  • Eateries at Bosphorus River Banks – Popular for serving fresh seafood

All of the aforementioned places to visit in Turkey are a delight for adventure-seekers and history buffs. This makes Turkey an amazing destination for international travelers.

In the meantime, if you want to enhance your travel experience, you can read all of Openiun’s travel-related pieces here. Click on the envelop icon on your screen to sign up for our e-newsletter. This is how you can track all our latest updates. 

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Written by Yousuf Mazher

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