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Hagia Sofia, Aya Sophia, Aya Sofia, Sancta Sophia, Holy Wisdom...

Whatever you call it, it's an impressive piece of architecture -- never mind that it was completed in 537 AD. Yes, this building is over 1400 years old.

Aya Sophia should rank up there with the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Taj Mahal and the other globally-recognized architectural landmarks.

For 900 years, this was the greatest church in Christianity.

The interior was undergoing major restoration in 1999. Scaffolding everywhere.

The large green shield is an artifact from the nearly 500 years that the Aya Sophia was used as a mosque. In 1935, Ataturk converted the building into a museum.

A view looking up at the ceiling.
A section of ceiling before restoration.
One of the upper galleries which ring the cathedral.

Look for the sensors placed along the cracks in the building. The idea is to give plenty of warning if the building makes any progress on its centuries-long crumbling and collapse.

A ceiling in an upper gallery.
An 11th century mosaic depicting Christ, Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus and the Empress Zoe.

Apparently as each of Zoe's two earlier husbands died, their faces were replaced with the latest model. Obviously, Monomachus outlived Zoe.

Just off the Inner Narthex at the present-day exit, is this 10th century mosaic of Constantine the Great, the Madonna and Child, and Emperor Justinian.

Constantine is offering up his namesake city, while Justinian hands over the Aya Sophia itself.

Narthex- A portico or lobby of an early Christian or Byzantine church or basilica, originally separated from the nave by a railing or screen.


Some of the heavy abutment work added to stabilize the building over the centuries.

The dome isn't supported directly underneath by columns, giving the interior a huge sense of huge space. Instead, the load is spread out through the walls, which eventually started to crack, bulge and buckle. Still, quite a trick for 537 A.D.

Earthquakes are common here, but the reinforcements have, largely, stood the test of time.

The ablution fountain (sadirvan), added for Muslim worship after the conquest of Constantinople.
Minarets were added when the cathedral was converted into a mosque.
A few more pictures of the Aya Sophia.

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