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Hagia Sophia: The story of a World Heritage Site

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  • Published
    5th Aug, 2022


Hagia Sophia has survived through various transformations, it has been a cathedral, a mosque, a museum, and now back to being a mosque. After being opened as a mosque, the site has hosted over 6.5 million viewers in the last two years.


About the Site

  • The Hagia Sophia is a historic place of worship in Istanbul, Turkey, in Eastern Europe.
  • It is the national landmark of Turkey, located at the center of the capital Istanbul.
  • It was built by the Roman empire as the basilica in 537 AD.


  • The original church on the site is said to have been built by Constantine I in 325 on the foundations of a pagan temple.
  • It was damaged in 404 by a fire that erupted during a riot following the second banishment of St. John Chrysostom, then patriarch of Constantinople.
  • It was rebuilt and enlarged by the Roman emperor Constans I.
  • The restored building was rededicated in 415 by Theodosius II.
  • The church was burned again in the Nika insurrection of January 532.
  • Hagia Sophia was originally built as the Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal Basilicain 537 AD by the Byzantine Roman empire during the reign of Jutinian I.
  • Converted into mosque: It was converted into a mosque by the Mehmed the Conquerer of Ottomon empire in 1453.
  • Converted into museum: It remained a mosque until 1931, and was opened as a museum in 1935 by the Republic of Turkey.

Structure of the Heritage Site

  • The Hagia Sophia measures 269 feet in length and 240 feet in width, with the domed roof stretching 180 feet above the ground.
  • Architectural Style: It was built in a grand Christian basilica style and is the most significant surviving example of Byzantine architecture.
  • Columns: The Hagia Sophia has 104 columns, many made of marble, imported from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus—an ancient city near modern-day Selçuk, Turkey—and from Egypt.

It was enlisted in the world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.

  • Dome: The main nave is covered by a central dome that is 107 feet in diameter and rises 180 feet above the ground
  • Minarets: The four minarets surrounding the main dome were later added by the Ottomon empire.
    • One minaret was built out of red bricks while the other three were built of white limestone and sandstone.

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