Hagia Sophia is the most important historical monument of Istanbul. Hagia Sophia, which is visited by an average of three million people a year, was converted from a museum to a mosque in 2020. In this article, you can find updated information about Hagia Sophia entrance fee and opening hours. In addition, the history of Hagia Sophia is also briefly noted.
There are magnificent Byzantine mosaics in Hagia Sophia. These mosaics, dated between the 9th and 13th centuries, can still be seen. Since Hagia Sophia is now a mosque, the mosaics are covered during prayer hours. The best time to visit Hagia Sophia is between 09:00 in the morning and 12:00 in the afternoon.
History of the Hagia Sophia
The history of Hagia Sophia goes back 1500 years and is considered one of the most important structures in human history. Until the construction of Hagia Sophia, there were two important temples that were widely known in the world: the first was the Solomon’s Temple, which was destroyed during the occupation of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire and the second was the Pantheon, which was built in ancient times in Rome.
Roman architecture from Pantheon to Hagia Sophia
Built in 118, the Pantheon is a building that truly reflects the wisdom of ancient times. It is an architectural masterpiece that goes far beyond its era with its dome 44 meters above the ground. The Pantheon represents the peak reached by Roman architects in the construction of a domed building.
However, even in the Pantheon, a dome was not placed over the Roman arches, the most important element of traditional Roman architecture. But the Byzantines, the continuation of the Romans, solved this architectural dilemma by building Hagia Sophia.
The Pantheon looks like a corner building from the outside, but when you enter the interior, it is noticed that the dome is supported by circular walls.
Hagia Sophia is a rectangular structure with a round dome. The task of placing a giant dome on the Roman arches has finally succeeded in Hagia Sophia. Eastern Roman, in other words, Byzantine architects, placed pendentives between a square center and the dome and solved this problem.
Great success of Byzantine architects
The pendentives can be seen in the four corners of the dome in the picture above. They are triangular with angel figures (Seraphim Angels). They relieve the incredible pressure created by the dome on the arches and support both sides. This technique was first used in the construction of Hagia Sophia. This new technique enabled the construction of Europe’s magnificent medieval cathedrals in the years to come.
This great architectural development was made possible by the efforts of architects Anthemius and Isidore. Anthemius was one of best mathematicians of that period. He even examined the earthquake records of the region before the construction of Hagia Sophia. Isidore was a scholar known as the teacher of architects.
Why Hagia Sophia was built?
There had been a big church known as Megale Ekklesia where Hagia Sophia was located. But during the Nika Revolt that erupted in 532 AD, this temple was destroyed by the rebels. Justinian, the greatest Byzantine emperor in history, was almost killed in the rebellion. Thanks to the great military genius Belisarius, he succeeded in suppressing the rebellion by swording 30,000 people.
Justinian took power after the rebellion was suppressed and demanded that the world’s largest church be built in place of the destroyed temple. Justinian would have regained his reputation before the people of Constantinople.
Hagia Sophia was built in just 5 years with the continuous work of 11,000 people. According to the records, 10,000 unskilled workers and 1000 craftsmen contributed to the construction. Rumor has it that when Justinian stepped into the Hagia Sophia, he murmured, “I surpassed you, Solomon.”
Justinian refers to the legendary architectural features of the Solomon’s Temple, which was demolished centuries ago. Although the temple was destroyed, it remained in the memory of people. Justinian thought he had built the world’s greatest temple ever, thus immortalizing his name forever.
The Biggest Church in the World
Hagia Sophia remained as the biggest church in the world from 537 until the 17th century when St. Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt. It is currently one of the 10 largest cathedrals in the world.
Hagia Sophia, which served as a church for 900 years, was converted into a mosque when the Ottomans took the city. After the establishment of Republic of Turkey, Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum. In the process of turning into a museum, mosaics that were closed for centuries were opened. It took nearly 10 years to uncover the artworks in the museum.
Although Hagia Sophia has been converted back into a mosque in 2020, the Byzantine mosaics in it are still preserved. Visitors will be able to see these mosaics outside of worship hours.
The Hagia Sophia is also the most visited historical monument in Istanbul. An average of 3 million people go to Sultanahmet (Istanbul Old City) in order to see Hagia Sophia.
Hagia Sophia Entrance Fee 2021
Hagia Sophia entrance fee was 100 Turkish Liras. However, Hagia Sophia was converted from a museum to a mosque as of July 2020. According to the official statement, the visit to Ayasoyfa will now be free.
I have previously recommended on this page to buy a museum card for fast access to Hagia Sophia. However, museum pass is no longer required for Hagia Sophia entrance. However, it may still be beneficial for you to get a museum card in Istanbul.
If you buy a museum pass, you can visit nearby museums such as Topkapi Palace, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. However, Istanbul Museum Pass is not valid in Basilica Cistern. You can see a detailed breakdown of which museums you can enter from the Istanbul museum pass article.
Hagia Sophia Opening Hours 2021
Hagia Sophia opening hours are between 09:00 in the morning and and 17:00 in the evening. The Mosque will be open to visitors except for prayer hours. The visiting hours will be the same as the neighboring Blue Mosque.
In Sultanahmet, the heart of Istanbul Old City, mosques close one hour before prayer time and open half an hour later. For example, if the noon prayer is at 13:00, the mosque will be closed between 12:00 and 13:30.
This is the link to check current praying hours for Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia Visiting Information by Serhat Engul