Hagia Sophia was built in between 532 and 537 under the personal supervision of Emperor Justinian I. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Roman architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. For over 900 years the Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for church councils and imperial ceremonies. Sophia remained a functioning church until May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet II, the Conqueror entered into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque and served as the principal mosque of Istanbul for almost 500 years. In 1934, under Turkish president Kemal Atatürk, Hagia Sofia was secularized and turned into the Ayasofya Museum. The plasters covering the mosaics were removed after it was converted into a museum and visitors can enjoyed and can be amazed by the unique Byzantine mosaics come out again.
Hagia Sophia is the first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Its influence, both architecturally and liturgically, was widespread and enduring in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim worlds alike. It became a model for many of the Ottoman mosques of Istanbul such as the Blue Mosque, the Suleymaniye Mosque, the Shehzade Mosque and the Rustem Pasha Mosque.
No major structural changes were made at first; the addition of a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit) and minarets made Hagia Sophia a mosque out of the church. At some early point, all the faces depicted in the church's mosaics were covered in plaster due to the Islamic prohibition of figurative imagery. Various additions were made over the centuries by successive sultans.
Today Hagia Sophia is most important and famous highlight of Istanbul with its one thousand five hundred year history.
* Next to Sultanahmet tram stop,
*Open everyday except Monday. April to October 09.00 am. to 07.00 pm, November to April 09.00am. to 05.00 pm.
* Entrance fee is 20 Turkish liras.