Turkey’s most visited site

Open any guidebook on Istanbul and the top recommended attraction will be Hagia Sophia. And no wonder. Also known as Sophia in Latin and the Church of the Divine Wisdom in English, this beautiful building is easily Istanbul's most historic – and spectacular – monument.

The history of Hagia Sophia

The full 1,400 year life-span would take hours to read. So here it is in brief. Completed by the great Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537 AD, Hagia Sophia was built (in just 6 years) in order to restore the greatness of the Roman Empire.

It was the greatest church in Christendom until the Conquest in 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror proclaimed it a mosque. It stayed that way until 1935 when Atatürk recognised its significance and turned it into the museum it is now.

See it before it’s too late

Hagia Sophia lies on a geological fault line. It has already been damaged by earthquakes and then rebuilt. Some worry that it would only take one great tremor to bring the entire building down.

Other interesting facts about Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

  • 30 million gold tesserae (tiny mosaic tiles) cover the church's interior
  • The Hagia Sophia is the most-visited site in Turkey
  • The Hagia Sophia was the largest church ever built until St Peter's Basilica was constructed in Rome 1,000 years later.
  • The stone cannonballs outside the entrance to Hagia Sophia were used by Mehmet the Conquerer in 1453 to save the city