When we heard that after 88 years the Hagia Sophia was open to Taraweeh prayers, it was a done deal. We booked in our flights, packed our bags and left .
A Little History of Hagia Sophia
Built in 532-537, the Hagia Sophia was initially a Church; ‘The Church of Holy Wisdom‘, and ran as a church for around 900 years. Keep in mind I am saying the year 532-537 this means that this building was made at the time of the Prophets. That is how old this building is. (Prophet Muhammed (SAW) was born in 570).
It ran as a church until the fall of of Constantinople in the mid 1400’s where it was then converted to a mosque by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. This is what is referred to as the ‘Mohammeden era‘ in history books.
Although a Mosque, Sultan Mehmet maintained all the Christian imagery within the structure. Instead of having it removed, he had it covered in order to preserve the feelings of the Christians.
To this day the drawings are still within the building.
The Hagia Sophia Interior
The Ottamon’s reigned for a couple of hundred of years. It was the WW1 that broke down the Ottoman Empire.
In 1935 the Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum, due to its combination of Byzantine and Ottoman influenced design. The facades and grand interior design as well as the many tombs that it holds.
This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Istanbul.
In 2020 the Turkish Government turned it back into a mosque. With the promise that the Christian imagery within the Hagia Sophia will be maintained and looked after. All Imagery within the Sophia Hagia is still there. Some are visable, others have a material on top of it.
An image of Leo 6th bowing down to Christ with Medallions of the arch angel Gabriel on one side and Virgin Mary on the one can still be seen. It is visible on the doorway before entering the main hallway for prayer. The other arches on the door have the cross.
Inside the main building, where prayer takes place, a sheet covers a drawing of the picture of Mary and the Christ Child. You can at slight angles see the edges of the drawing itself.
On the edge of the main dome of the mosque- their are 4 Seraphim mosaic, which are ‘winged angel figure’. These can be seen today. However the faces of these are covered with a plaster and metal mask which is put on top. (and not actually touching the piece of art.) Today one of the mask has fallen off, and we can see the face of the angel looking down.
It is mentioned in a few books that more artwork is available to view on the first floor. This part of the mosque is non-accessible.
One area of the Floor of Sophia Hagia is not carpeted. Although it is blocked with ropes so that we cannot walk across it. I’m assuming this area is left open so that we can see what the original floor looked like before the carpets were placed for prayers.
Their was also a guide who advised that the actual, circles represent the solar system. Meaning, the Sun, Moon and the Planets. I’ll be honest. I couldn’t see it. (*sorry not sorry. just being honest here*)
The Sophia Hagia Today
And in 2022- The Sophia Hagia hosted the first Taraweeh after 88 years. The videos and pictures I saw on Instagram and all forms of Social Media took a little piece of my heart. My heart yearned to go.
We all know from the outside the Sophia Hagia is a eye catching monument, its grandiose, and so impossibly huge. But inside it absolutely takes your breath away.
You can feel the spirituality in your bones on entrance. Although hundreds of people are entering with you, theirs a low hum and murmuring. Everyone here is in awe- and a natural form of respect with quiet whispers, and low talks.
We actually spent most of our trip here, whether that be for prayers, Taraweeh or generally just sitting and observing. Each and every time I walk into the mosque it takes my breath away, and every time I go in, I see it a little different from the time before.
I think it would be fair to say that no matter how long you spend here, you wont be able to take in the magnificence of the place with its features, explosion of Byzantine and Ottoman art, the mosaic pillars and intricate detailing.
It truly is a piece of Art and something not to be missed on your trip to Istanbul.
Have you been to Istanbul? Have you been inside the Sophia Hagia. How was your experience?
For more on my Istanbul trip click here.
Love and regards