HAGIA SOPHIA, ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) rises like a rust-colored mountain near the end of Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula, overlooking the confluence of the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Strait. The city originated on this peninsula and Hagia Sophia has been there almost since the beginning. OK, that’s not quite true, but it has been there for a very long time. The city originated, as Byzantium, in the 7th century BCE. In the 4th century, the Roman emperor Constantine claimed Byzantium as his capital and renamed the city Constantinople. Constantine was the first Christian emperor of Rome. The building we know as Hagia Sophia was built in 537 CE by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, on the ruins of two previous cathedrals. Hagia Sophia stood as the largest cathedral for almost 1,000 years. The dome spans over 100 feet and is 180 feet high. Upon conquering the city in 1453, Sultan Mehmet II was so impressed with the building, he made it his imperial mosque. The design of many subsequent mosques built in the city was influenced by the Hagia Sophia.
It’s very impressive from the outside but, for me, the real WOW experience happens inside. It’s just so big and wide-open, you really feel like a speck of dust in there. Continue reading