Hagia Sophia (“Ayasofya” in Turkish) was dedicated as a Christian church in 360 A.D. Famous for its Byzantine dome, it was the world’s largest cathedral for 1000 years and the focus of the Greek Orthodox Church. It contained holy relics, colorful mosaics, and painted icons (portraits of angels and saints) on silver walls. In 1453, Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople (the former name of Istanbul). He ordered Ayasofya (which was still the largest building in the world) to be converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, and icons were removed, and the mosaics were plastered over. Islamic features such as four tall minarets were added. Ayasofya was used as a mosque until 1931 when the Republic of Turkey, under the secular democratic leadership of Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, ordered it to be made into a museum.
Since then, millions of Christians have come from around the world to admire Ayasofya’s arches, windows, stone carvings, and tile mosaics that highlight Jesus, Mary, and even Byzantine leaders (each with an amazing story to accompany the art). Most Istanbul tours are organized around a visit to Ayasofya, and every day tourist buses can be seen around the historical landmark while tourists stroll along with their cameras. You can even take a virtual tour online.
We can see patterns in Ayasofya’s architecture and mosaics just as we can see patterns in the stars above us and in nature all around our world. We can even see patterns in history and in human behavior. See more photos of Ayasofya and read about what’s happening there now: