Brief history of Hagia Sophia
- The construction of this iconic structure in Istanbul started in 532 AD during the reign of Justinian I, the ruler of the Byzantine Empire, when the city was known as Constantinople.
- The structure was originally built to become the seat of the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church and remained so for approximately 900 years.
- In 1453, when Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet II’s Ottoman forces, the Hagia Sophia was ransacked by the invading forces and turned into a mosque shortly after.
- The structure of the monument was then subjected to several changes where Orthodox symbols were removed and minarets were added to the exterior of the structure.
- For five centuries, it was a jewel in the Ottoman Sultan’s crown.
- Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey, converted the building into a museum in 1935 as part of his secularisation drive.
- Ever since, it has been one of Turkey’s most visited monuments as well as a symbol of Christian-Muslim co-existence.
- It is also called Church of the Holy Wisdom or Church of the Divine Wisdom and Ayasofya in Turkish.
- It is also is a component of a UNESCO World Heritage site called the Historic Areas of Istanbul (designated 1985).
Why in News?
Turkey’s highest court recently allowed for the conversion of the nearly 1,500 year-old Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.