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One word. Amazing. That is enough to describe Hagia Sophia. There’s no better place on the globe that I can think about right now, that has shared and witnessed grander events than Ayasofya – the shrine that stands proudly on the border of Europe and Asia.

HAGIA SOPHIA 3The Church of Wisdom has gone from being a pagan temple, to a Christian basilica. Then the basilica was turned into the center of Greek Orthodoxy, and then again became a Catholic church. Then it was a Greek Orthodox Church and finally, it became a Muslim mosque. It served as a model for many of the Ottoman mosques such as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and was converted into a museum in the early1900s.

The grounds, on which Hagia Sophia is built, recall memories of the relocation of the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople. The temple remembers the Golden Age of Byzantium. It remembers the first, and definitely not the last, Arab attempt to conquer Europe. It remembers the collapse of Ottoman Empire and it remembers the public speeches of Ataturk and the streets riots in 2013. And, it remembers the terrorist attack that happened last month, this year. Indeed, it has many memories to remember.

HAGIA SOPHIA 2Hagia Sophia is definitely a tourist place. Any trip to Istanbul is incomplete without visiting this shrine. Currently the Turks are in the process of restoring it, but it is still worth visiting because  it is one of the most interesting spots of Istanbul, if not the most interesting. For me it is amazing that something so big, so old and so beautiful still exists after all , since the moment the first brick was laid in construction.

HAGIA SOPHIA 1The atmosphere is grand! When I crossed the heavy-looking gates I had shivers all over my body! It was cold inside but it was not the reason of my shivers. While entering Ayasofya I knew I was just one of billions if not gazyllions of souls that had walked into this building in the last 1500 years! The stones on the floor are all rounded by the millions upon millions of feet that have walked on them. My feet were one of them; not the first and not the last! For the building, my visit had no meaning, but for me it had huge meaning. Now, I feel like a part of the history of the building that seems to be older than the history itself.

Not only the floor is astonishing and the walls are as well! The mosaics within the church are of Christian icons such as the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Archangel Gabriel and the other saints.  The mosaics look gold and they actually are covered with a layer of true gold. When Istanbul was taken over by the Ottoman Empire, the mosaics were completely covered with plaster. It took a lot of effort and energy to chip off all of that plaster to unearth the beautiful mosaics hidden underneath.

With its rich and majestic history, with the faiths that it has housed for centuries, with the powers that ruled its location for years upon years, with the empires that came and went, Hagia Sophia is truly an amazing place to visit as it gives a breath of history. Man can create beautiful things, and Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful things humankind has ever made. It is a masterpiece. The masterpiece of masterpieces!