The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul - The Eighth Wonder of the World

Published: 13th April 2010
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The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is one of the masterpieces of the world because of its architecture as well as inside decoration. It is also one of Turkey's major tourist destinations.

From its high vantage point in the old quarter of the city, Hagia Sophia is instantly recognizable, and can be distinguished from its neighbor, the Blue Mosque, by its distinctively pink facade and four minarets. The dome was an engineering innovation at the time of its construction, and was a clear inspiration to later generations of architects.

The Hagia Sophia or Church of Holy Wisdom was the basilica of the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly a thousand years. The present-day structure, built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in the 6th century, is on the site of the original built two centuries sooner by the emperor Constantine.

Back then Istanbul was called Constantinople. The basilica was known as the largest church in Christendom, and is still considered one of the most distinguished buildings in the world. It survived earthquakes, fires, and armies.

After the city's official new name was changed as "Istanbul", Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque on the orders of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror.

It gradually underwent extensive repairs, iconographic images disallowed by Islam were plastered over, and minarets were added to the structure. As Ayasofya, it remained Istanbul's primary mosque for almost 500 years.

In 1935, Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, called for the renovation and transition of this historical building to a national museum.

The building's cool interior dimly glows from narrow arched windows. When you visit the museum, you'll notice it's nearly silent except for tour guides droning in different languages. Green-veined marble-faced walls and columns, many topped with creative scrollwork, divide the majestic space.

Many of the mosaics in the Hagia Sophia were protected by plaster from removal or vandalism during the building's Islamic time period. The lavishly decorative marble floors were likewise protected by carpets. Restorers must weigh which artwork to reveal, since uncovering Byzantine mosaics requires destroying later Islamic art.

The newest development is that a six winged angel figure is uncovered after being hidden behind plaster and a metal mask for 160 years. The mosaic looks well preserved. Its real age is yet to be determined but thought to be at the least 700 years old.

It depicts the angel Seraphim, one of the highest orders in the hieararchy of angels according to Book of Revelations. At the moment, visitors from across the world, rush to see the "Angel Face".

However, most awe-inspiring of all is the building's soaring central dome, supported by four massive arches, the epitome of the splendor of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

My impression of Hagia Sophia is that it is probably the "eighth wonder" of the world. Note that it is called "Ayasofya" in Turkish and so goes the signs and that it is closed on Mondays.

About Author:

Mehmet Koruyan has been living in Istanbul all his life. His website http://www.best-of-istanbul.com provides tourist information that only locals knows.

Keyword: istanbul, travel to istanbul, turkey, tourism, vacations
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Title3: Istanbul, Turkey - The Best Of All Cultures

Summery:
Istanbul is one of the world's truly magnificient cities. It is an ancient city that offers so much for travelers and tourists interested in history, theology, architecture, archaeology and antiquity yet at the same time being extremely modern and hip.

Body:
Istanbul is one of the world's truly magnificient cities. It is an ancient city that offers so much for travelers and tourists interested in history, theology, architecture, archaeology and antiquity yet at the same time being extremely modern and hip.

Just like the massive suspension bridges in Bosphorus connecting Europe and Asia, Istanbul today is like a bridge linking the past civilizations with the present ones. The East meets the West here. Many seemingly opposing forces has learned to live in a coherent harmony here for decades.

Most new visitors are struck first by its size, then by its often amazingly European flavor. With a slightly longer exposure to the city, the common impression is how scenic and how very old it is, holding layer upon layer of history.

It is a huge city of over 12 million people that extends well inland from both sides of the Bosphorus Strait dividing Europe from Asia. The site has been home to over a dozen civilizations, and traces of all the ancient and recent ones are evident.

Turkey is very Europeanized nowadays, so many tourists are initially surprised at how western the manners and dress are. Some are even surprised that Turkish is written in letters recognizable to westerners, which helps to find you way.

Whatever brought you here, you should definitely spend some time sightseeing. Here is a "must-see" Top-5:

1. The Hagia Sophia is one of the city's landmarks. It used to be church and was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It is now a museum attracting 2 million visitors yearly.

2. The immense multidomed Sultanahmet Mosque, dating from the 17th century, faces Hagia Sophia. It's better known as the Blue Mosque because of the 20 thousand handmade blue tiles inside, and it's still a place of worship.

3. The Hippodrome is one of the oldest sites in Istanbul. Built by the Romans around 200 AD for chariot races, it was an important part of Byzantine public life for more than a millennium. Today, it's an inviting park next to the Blue Mosque.

4. The huge Topkapi Palace, the former home of the Ottoman sultans, now houses a museum with hundreds of rooms and huge collections of precious artifacts, including jewels, illustrated manuscripts, and weapons.

5. The Dolmabahce Palace was constructed as a modern and luxurious replacement for the Topkapi Palace. Filled with gold and crystal, this palace was home to six of the last sultans.

Most visitors can't get enough of Istanbul in one visit. While the noise of traffic can be unpleasant at times, less familiar sounds come to be welcome: the haunting calls to prayer, the cries of vendors, the popular Turkish music wafting from minibuses and shops, and the sounds of numerous languages mixing together.

The city really offers an endless variety of entertainment. From activities perfect for relaxing to exciting events and informative exhibits, there's something for every taste. I have lived in Istanbul all my life and I will never have enough of this vibrant Turkish metropolis.

About Author:

Mehmet Koruyan has been living in Istanbul all his life. His website http://www.best-of-istanbul.com provides tourist information that only locals knows.

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