It’s a church. It’s a mosque. It’s Hagia Sophia. – Kelly Wall


They say that if walls could talk,
each building would have a story to tell, but few would tell so many fascinating
stories in so many different voices as the Hagia Sophia, or holy wisdom. Perched at the crossroads
of continents and cultures, it has seen massive changes
from the name of the city where it stands, to its own structure and purpose. And today, the elements
from each era stand ready to tell their tales
to any visitor who will listen. Even before you arrive at the Hagia Sophia,
the ancient fortifications hint at the strategic importance
of the surrounding city, founded as Byzantium
by Greek colonists in 657 BCE. And successfully renamed as
Augusta Antonia, New Rome and Constantinople as it was conquered, reconquered,
destroyed and rebuilt by various Greek, Persian and
Roman rulers over the following centuries. And it was within these walls that
the first Megale Ekklesia, or great church, was built in the fourth century. Though it was soon burned
to the ground in riots, it established the location for
the region’s main religious structure for centuries to come. Near the entrance,
the marble stones with reliefs are the last reminders
of the second church. Built in 415 CE, it was destroyed
during the Nika Riots of 532 when angry crowds at a chariot race nearly overthrew the emperor,
Justinian the First. Having barely managed to retain power, he resolved to rebuild the church
on a grander scale, and five years later, the edifice
you see before you was completed. As you step inside, the stones
of the foundation and walls murmur tales from their homelands
of Egypt and Syria, while columns taken from the Temple
of Artemis recall a more ancient past. Runic inscriptions carved by the
Vikings of the emperor’s elite guard carry the lore of distant northern lands. But your attention is caught by
the grand dome, representing the heavens. Reaching over 50 meters high and
over 30 meters in diameter and ringed by windows around its base, the golden dome appears
suspended from heaven, light reflecting through its interior. Beneath its grandiose symbolism,
the sturdy reinforcing Corinthian columns, brought from Lebanon after
the original dome was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 558 CE, quietly remind you of its fragility and the engineering skills
such a marvel requires. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the mosaics from the next several
centuries have the most to say not only about their Biblical themes, but also the Byzantine emperors who commissioned them, often depicted along with Christ. But beneath their loud and clear voices, one hears the haunting echoes of
the damaged and missing mosaics and icons, desecrated and looted during
the Latin Occupation in the Fourth Crusade. Within the floor, the tomb inscription
of Enrico Dandolo, the Venetian ruler who
commanded the campaign, is a stark reminder of those 57 years that Hagia Sophia spent as a Roman Catholic church before returning to its orthodox roots
upon the Byzantine Reconquest. But it would not remain a church for long. Weakened by the Crusades, Constantinople
fell to the Ottomans in 1453 and would be known as Istanbul thereafter. After allowing his soldiers
three days of pillage, Sultan Mehmed the Second
entered the building. Though heavily damaged,
its grandeur was not lost on the young sultan who immediately
rededicated it to Allah, proclaiming that it would be
the new imperial mosque. The four minarets built
over the next century are the most obvious sign of this era, serving as architectural supports
in addition to their religious purpose. But there are many others. Ornate candle holders relate
Suleiman’s conquest of Hungary, while giant caligraphy discs
hung from the ceiling remind visitors for the first
four caliphs who followed Muhammad. Though the building you see today still
looks like a mosque, it is now a museum, a decision made in 1935 by Kemal Ataturk, the modernizing first president of Turkey following the Ottoman Empire’s collapse. It was this secularization
that allowed for removal of the carpets hiding
the marble floor decorations and the plaster covering
the Christian mosaics. Ongoing restoration work
has allowed the multiplicity of voices in Hagia Sophia’s long history to be heard again after
centuries of silence. But conflict remains. Hidden mosaics cry out from
beneath Islamic calligraphy, valuable pieces of history that cannot be
uncovered without destroying others. Meanwhile, calls sound from
both Muslim and Christian communities to return the building to
its former religious purposes. The story of the divine wisdom
may be far from over, but one can only hope that
the many voices residing there will be able to tell their part
for years to come.

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Reader Comments

  1. KULSUM Farheen

    HAGIA SOPHIA is so beautiful
    Am Indian Muslim & here in India there are lots of beautiful mosques
    I love holy places cuz there are no negativity
    & my dream is to go Istanbul at once in my life
    Istanbul is a beautiful city

  2. Thomas More

    1:45 is not what Hagia Sophia looked like right after it was built in the 400s *AD*… That's what it looks like today with the Islamic iconography…. It was originally Catholic.

  3. Constatine XI Palaeologus

    I lived in Istanbul 2006 and there is about 15,000+ mosques in the city and suburbs. They really don't need to turn the Hagia Sophia into another mosque, keep it a Museum. It more a desire for Islamic dominance than a need for a mosque. Most Turks I knew wanted it to remain a Museum.

  4. Sudenaz Kalem

    Bir Türk olarak böyle bir kültür güzelliğine sahip olduğum için mutluyum. İstanbul gerçekten güzel bir şehir. Greetings form Turkey. 🇹🇷

  5. Rhese Avallone

    There are some inaccuracies: Istanbul wasn't renamed right after. It stayed as Constantinople (Konstantiniyye) until Atatürk renamed it(Because it wasn't a turkish word). And Atatürk didn't rename Constantinople because Constantinople is in İstanbul, only the part surrounded with walls is Constantinople but Istanbul covers a much much larger area. Constantinople is still Constantinople and it includes Sultanahmet, Aksaray, Taksim, Beyoğlu, Eminönü and much more. I live in İstanbul but not in Constantinople. The reason why they covered some of the mosaics is not because they hated Jesus. In islam you can't put prophets' paintings and sculptures in mosques so people don't worship them. It's against to worship people in islam. And Jesus is a prophet of islam too, in quran it's stated that Jesus is a prophet and a miracle of God, he taught people a religion of God, his mother is Mother Mary (her majesty) and muslims should respect him. And the just can't rip mosaics off, so they covered it.
    And lastly Atatürk never wore a fez after the declaration of independence. Fez is an ottoman thing, turks are not ottomans. Some say we are but no. Ottomans were high class, rich people with both european and arabian roots. Turks were just peasants who were oppressed by ottomans.

  6. M.D Records

    What actually this narrator is trying to say? I think she want prove being a Christian that this building was originally built by Christians but now nobody can recognize because inside the walls Quranic verses is written everywhere, and that also fine for now because now this is a museum and ai't no body gonna pray in there. soon,🤖

  7. Demos Tychalas

    Of course you foreigners can't understand the frustration we Greeks feel. Did you lose half of your country, including your religious and economic center? Did they kick you out of the land your forefathers lived for entire centuries? Did your nation lived under an empire which left it's population in the dark ages? Show some respect.

  8. Hellenic Daemon

    God bless the man who ordered its construction and the people who left it as it is, rather then destroying it, Muslims and Christians may fight over it as what it should be, but a great marval like this, the art and history this has, it's best to leave it as it is, a museum.

  9. Mikayel Միքայել

    3:32 Սատկած լակոտներ վայ դուք սատանայի լակոտներ
    Anatolia is not Muslim and will never be Muslim

  10. Ayşe Kevser Karacagil

    Our wise and glorious emperor….
    Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Mehmet the conqueror (Mehmet II))
    My Allah be pleased with him🇹🇷

  11. Abdulkerim Erciyas

    Yine cami olarak kalsın gelmek isteyen turistler yine gelsin.Ama durun siz az kaldı yakında İslam yeniden büyüdüğünde gözlerinizin içine baka baka Ayasofyayı da ibadete açacağız..LA GALİBE İLLALLAH..

  12. tolga tarkan ölmez

    Changing the name of the city of Istanbul is a tradition, as you might realize from the video. Even the ancient Greeks changed the name Byzantium several times. Istanbul was called by many names such as Lygos, Semistra, Byzantion, Byzantium, Augusta Antonina, New Rome, Constantinopolis, Konstantiniyye, Islambol, Stamboli and Istanbul. Therefore, there should not be any problem of renaming this great city as Istanbul.

  13. ismo can

    There wasnt something like a pillage the sultan entered the building first and said that the building would change to a mosque but there wasnt a pillage if there was show me please your source of this information (sorry for bad english )

  14. satvinder singh

    Beautiful architecture! The city of Istanbul is just gorgeous! I was scared to go there in 2010 because it's a Muslim country but what a shocker! Women out in the streets dressed no different than anywhere else in the west and Turkey makes its own beers. Thank Allah for secularism. I think that time is over now but I'm glad I got a chance to see it before the current government came in.

  15. Zeus ok

    The Turks forced the Greeks to convert to Islam and then in 1950s they forced the remaining Greeks to live the city. GOD WILL PUNISH THE TURKS FOR BEING ON STOLEN LANDS. THE LANDS ARE GREEK

  16. thanasis vindi

    the byzantium founded by greek colonists in 657 bce and for 2000 yeas was a greek city, now how can it be turkish? it is like we can go to take the capital of another civilization like usa, throw them away n tell them they re greeks, like the turks did at 1453 ?

  17. Morkos Abdelmalak

    It's a church, And Turks converted into Mosque…Then They realized t should be a neutral building and they turned it into museum…I say if it didn't stay that way and turkey converted into a mosque again, let burn it down into ashes.

  18. Khalid Sheikhomar

    Spain 🇪🇸 Pillaged all its mosques and convered the grand Al Hambra into a church. I don’t see any Muslims complaining about it, Hagia Sophia is in Turkey and Erorogan will decide what to make with it, alhamdulilah for the mercy of Mohamed Al Fatih and following the teaching of Rasullah SAW in keeping the building intact and restoring it s beauty.

  19. Charmedsweet

    As a Greek, "Hagia Sofia" most likely brings Saint Sofia of Rome to your mind (since that's what Hagia Sofia means in Greek), but the realization that Hagia Sofia stands not for Saint Sofia, but for Holy Wisdom (hagia= holy, wisdom= sofia in greek), as in Holy Wisdom of God, is so moving and heart-warming. Especially considering how that God can be Zeus, the christian God, Allah or any other deity that has been revered inside its walls throughout the centuries.

  20. Abdul Xashi

    Chiristians deserted and abandoned thier churches and temples nowadays in their cities, i don undstnd of what benefit would thy gain if they were surrendered this structure?????😕😕😲😲

  21. Jelly Fingers

    It's the Orhtodox christian Church named Hagia Sofia and it will one day be restored. Imagine if Christians or Jews took over Mecca- how would muslims feel? Orthodox Christians just want this one building back.

  22. Syafiqullah Azmy

    this video explains about Islam but there are no Indonesian subtitles whereas the majority of Indonesian people are Muslim and the largest in the world

  23. IoannisS84

    This video has to be reported to youtube for serious misrepresentations of history. The mosaics were not desecrated during the latin conquest- most of the were covered with plaster after the fall of constantinople to the ottomans, and where they were uncovered during the 19th century, the damage they sustained was revealed. Please stop misrepresenting history, please be accurate in the presentation of historical facts. It is obvious that you don't have the knowledge to speak authoritatively on this subject.

  24. mellissa compston

    She is just a kid not for all you leeches to sell out to the world wtf is wrong with all of you involved with this it's dangerous it's all the religions ENOUGH with the Way International

  25. Rico

    Doesn't matter if you burn it, stole it, rebuild it, repurpose it…. as long as you used a piece of the building that were once blessed as a church… its belong to Christians and Christ Himself… not anyone

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