The Hagia Sophia is a large, very old building in the Turkish city of Istanbul. For a long time it was the largest church in the world. But the building is not only very big, it is also magnificently furnished. It is a landmark of the city.
The Hagia Sophia was completed in 537 AD. Istanbul was then called Constantinople and was the most important city of the Byzantine Empire. The name Hagia Sophia is Greek and means: Holy Wisdom. It was one of the most important Catholic churches and later the most important church of the Orthodox Christians.
In the Middle Ages, the Ottomans conquered the city. These Islamic rulers converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque in 1453. The bells were melted down. Some of the mosaics were knocked down, but others were only covered over.
In 1935, when Turkey was already a republic, a museum was established in the Hagia Sophia. This eliminated the question of whether the building should be used for Christian or Muslim purposes. Soon after, there was only one museum in the country that attracted more tourists, the Topkapi Palace, also in Istanbul.
In 2020, the question of the building's use was raised again. Turkey's Supreme Court ruled that Hagia Sophia could be used as a mosque again. The head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, immediately put this decision into practice. The valuable mosaics and all other Christian symbols were covered with cloths or carpeted. On 24 July 2020, the first Friday prayer in over 500 years took place in the Hagia Sophia.