A brief history of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia: Many Jumma namaz and Sunday services had passed over those stones. Now from daily exhibition to mosque again. The world keeps changing.

Hagia Sophia was built for the first time in the 4th century AD. After it was built for the first time, it was destroyed a lot. The current look of the building was built in 562 AD, during the reign of Emperor Justinian I (Brooks, 2001; Taranto et al., 2019). The emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire ordered the construction of enormous structures in Constantinople the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the city grew rapidly. This building also had a series of serious issue before it converted into Mosque, but the notable one was the collapse of 1346, which led to the building being closed until 1354.

Constantinople is the former name for Istanbul, given by Constantine the Great. Istanbul was known as Constantinople from 330 AD to the capture of the city by the Turks in 1453.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. (Teall, 2021)

Hagia Sophia, Turkish Ayasofya, Latin Sancta Sophia, also called Church of the Holy Wisdom or Church of the Divine Wisdom

Before converted into the Mosque by Mehmed II in 1453, the Hagia Sophia remained the centre of Greek Church around 900 years. It was at this time when the Ottoman Turks took control of Constantinople and converted its largest church into the city’s principal mosque. Apa Suphea was the name given to Santa Sophia (Mukherjee, 2021). Mehmed erected a minaret and subsequent sultans installed three more, so there is now one at each corner, but the interior remains largely as it ever was (Darke, 2020). In 1573 the great Ottoman architect Sinan was commissioned to strengthen Hagia Sophia, which was again starting to show signs of possible collapse. Extra buttressing was added to the outside to ensure its resistance to earthquakes. In total, 24 buttresses have been added over the centuries to ensure its stability, making its external appearance quite different to how it would have looked originally (Darke, 2020).

Hagia Sophia

It persisted for hundreds of years in its new form. It became a symbol of ambition for those who looked at it from afar. The Ottoman Empire was crumbling, and Russia was rising in the nineteenth century. Russia was a big country, but it was also a closed one, with no warm-water ports anywhere in her vast territory. As a result, she was envious of Constantinople’s beauty.

Apart from that, there was a spiritual and cultural pull. The Russian czars (the ruler of Russia until the 1917 revolution) regarded themselves as successors to the Eastern Roman emperors and desired to restore their dominance over their ancient city. Both were followers of the same religion, the Orthodox Greek Church, centred on the famed Santa Sophia. It had formerly been a mosque. How is that tolerable? The Greek Cross, rather than the Islamic Hilal or crescent, should be emblazoned on its dome.

Czarist Russia began to grow towards Constantinople over time. After England and France raised barriers, resulted in war, and Russia’s march was halted for a while. Finally, the Great War of 1914 broke out, and secret treaties were signed by England, France, Russia, and Italy. The great ideals of freedom and independence of small countries were displayed before the world, but behind the curtain, like vultures waiting for the body, the partition of the planet began.

In Russia, the czars were overthrown, and the government and social system were reformed before that corpse could reach the country. Bolshevik (Russian: “One of the Majority”), a member of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party wing that, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, took control of the Russian government in October 1917 and rose to prominence as a major political force in the country’s history (Britannica, 2020). The Bolsheviks dissolved all secret deals and announced that they were against imperialism and did not intend to invade any other country in order to expose the cunning of the big imperialistic countries in Europe (Mukherjee, 2021).

The West’s winning forces were not pleased with the Bolsheviks’ firm stand and reasonable attitude. They seized control of Constantinople, in particular the English did really well at it. The Caliph (the chief Muslim civil and religious ruler) and Sultan both succumbed to European authority, but a small group of Turks objected. Mustafa Kemal was one of them, and he preferred to rise up in rebellion rather than accepting defeat.

In May 1919, Mustafa Kemal (Also called Atatürk) started a nationalist revolution in Anatolia. He organised people to fight against the peace settlement that the Allies had forced on Turkey. Resistance to Greek attempts to take Smyrna and its environs was a major focus of this. As a result of the Greek victory, the Treaty of Lausanne was reworked to include an amendment to the peace settlement.

A provisional government was set up by Atatürk in Ankara in 1921. Turkey became a secular republic in 1923 with Atatürk as its president after the Ottoman Sultanate was destroyed in 1922. He established a single-party rule that lasted nearly uninterrupted until 1945.

The modernization of Turkey was the goal of his revolutionary social and political reforms. As part of these reforms, liberation of women was achieved, all Islamic institutions were abolished, and the introduction of Western legal systems was introduced. His foreign policy was non-interventionist, fostering good relations with Turkey’s neighbours. The name of Constantinople was also altered. It became Istanbul (Itzkowitz, 2022). The name of Constantinople was also altered. It became Istanbul.

Turkey’s first president, Kemal Atatürk, secularised the structure in 1934, and it was turned into a museum the following year. In 1985, the Hagia Sophia got the status of UNESCO World Heritage site. Several other buildings and locations were also the part of it. During Erdoan’s presidency, he decided to repurpose the structure as a mosque in 2020. A few minutes following the announcement, Islamic prayers were held in the building, partially hiding the Christian images. Because it is Turkey’s most well-known tourist attraction, the Hagia Sophia is still open to the general public (Britannica, 2020).


Britannica, E. (2020, January 14). Bolshevik | Definition, History, Beliefs, Flag, & Facts | Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Bolshevik

Darke, D. (2020, July 31). Hagia Sophia is still symbolic of Christianity and Islam’s shared history | Middle East Eye. Middle East Eye. https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/hagia-sophia-backstory-Islam-Christianity-shared-history

Itzkowitz, N. (2022, January 1). Kemal Ataturk | Biography, Reforms, Death, & Facts | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Kemal-Ataturk

Mukherjee, M. (2021, October 24). Nehru’s Word: The Story of Hagia Sophia. National Herald. https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/nehrus-word-the-story-of-hagia-sophia

Teall, J. L. (2021, September). Byzantine Empire | History, Geography, Maps, & Facts | Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. https://www.britannica.com/place/Byzantine-Empire


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