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Some people and tourist guides refer the Aya Sofya (also spelled Ayasofya) as the Hagia Sofia, which is the Greek name. On a side note, many Greeks still call Istanbul Constantinople, just to piss the Turks off. Ok, some of the items on this list aren’t really secrets.
Do you see Jesus and Mary right between the Arabic calligraphy that says Allah and Mohammed? The Aya Sofya is the only building that served both Christianity and Islam. The building was constructed as a church under Emperor Justinian in year 537 (Astonished by the Aya Sofya’s beauty, Justinian claimed that he outdid Solomon upon seeing it for the first time). The Islams converted it into a mosque in year 1453 as soon as they conquered Istanbul. Ataturk finally converted it to a museum in 1924.
How is it that the massive, 30 meter diameter, dome has been able to support itself without pillars? Actually, there are four pillars, but we can’t see them because they are hidden in the interior walls. This huge open space was one of the first things I noticed upon entering the building.
There’s a so-called weeping column in the northeast of the imperial door. You put your finger in a small hole in a gold area of the column, and if it’s wet when you take it out, it means that you will be healed. (I didn’t take a picture of the column.)
The Byzantine emperors were coronated in the Aya Sofya.
Right next to the Omphalion is the so-called devil’s pillar because one of the marble patterns look like a nuclear explosion.
You can take a cool picture if you leave your camera on a little x mark on the ground right beneath the center of the dome. Everything- the chandelier, the inscription, and the mosaic- is aligned perfectly.
You’ll see in the pictures above how only one of the Hexapterygon (six winged anngel)’s face is visible. When the Islams took over the building, they covered the Christian images, damaging the artwork in the process. Later, Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati did some restoration work.
Some scholars have pointed out that it’s very unusual that the AyaSofya has no underground network with crypts and vaults, a common feature for the churches of similar size in that period. Could it be that it has been hidden from the public?
Below are pictures I took from the second floor.
I recalled the above mosaic from my history textbook. I remember staring at it while daydreaming during one class because I couldn’t concentrate on what the teacher was saying. Anyway, the brilliant mosaics on the second floor are a must-see in the Ayasofya.
Oh yes, I also just wanted to add that I learned most of these things from eavesdropping on tour guides.