A wonder of 6th century engineering, Istanbul’s church of Hagia Sophia stood as a symbol of the Byzantine empire for over 9oo years. So great is its magnetism that it was adopted by the conquering Ottomans and converted into a mosque to signal their rightful inheritance of the empire’s distinguished legacy. And the magic remains on full display today: a massive dome that appears to float weightlessly above the floor, filtered light that infuses the interior with a glow symbolic of God’s wisdom and gold-filled mosaics that encourage contemplation. It is yours to discover.
What’s in this guidebook
- An introduction. We review the church’s history and explain why the emperor-builder Justinian broke from earlier design precedent in favor of an innovative central plan that features a prayer space covered by an enormous dome.
- Review of the architectural highlights. Following our tradition of being the most valuable resource for culture-focused travelers, we profile the church’s most important architectural features and offer a discussion that ties it all together.
- Tour of the mosaics. The church holds one of the greatest collections of mosaics in the world. To do it justice, we crafted a comprehensive tour that features eleven of the premier works. For each, we review its history, stylistic features and iconography.
- A visit to the prototype. Since the nearby church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus likely served as a small-scale prototype for the great church, we also offer a tour that focuses on their shared characteristics.
- Advice for getting the best cultural experience. To help you plan your visit, this guidebook supplies logistical advice, maps and links to online resources. Plus, we give our personal tips for getting the most from your experience while on location.
- Information the way you like it. As with all of our guides, this book is optimized for intuitive, quick navigation; information is organized into bullet points to make absorption easy; and images are marked up with text that explains important features.