The first time I walked in this ancient building I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know much about its history and its cultural heritage. I just thought it was the nth museum, with old stuff all over the place. I couldn’t be more wrong than that. Not only it is not just a usual museum, but the atmosphere in Hagia Sophia is quite magical. You go through its doors and get transported back in time. Centuries of history are still alive in the huge hall of the Orthodox patriarchal basilica, then Roman Catholic cathedral, later become a mosque. And you can still see all the layers of its history painted and represented on the walls. Symbols of Christianity and Islam gathered together in frescoes, medalions, embossed patterns.
Though what struck me the most was the chandeliers and Arabic decorations in the semi-dark ambience, typical of a mosque..
Despite it was filled with tourists it was still a peaceful place, a holy place even though it was secularized about eighty years ago and transformed into a museum. Hagia Sophia is more than 1650 years old and during its existence it has gone through conquests, wars, fire, earthquakes.
I think is the only building which has been in two ‘different’ cities at the same time, Costantinople and later Istanbul. It’s a masterpiece of architecture and art and a place you should definitely take the time to see if you are in Istanbul.