Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are the two best-known and most beloved attractions in Istanbul. The architecture of both structures is indescribably beautiful and their history seems endless. From early morning to dusk, rain or shine, there are long lines of people waiting to get inside and admiring the exterior of these amazing structures. The two buildings face each other from opposite ends of a park with a beautiful water fountain between.
For Muslims the ancient Blue Mosque is the most holy. It’s an active mosque. During prayer times throughout the day tourists and non-worshippers are not allowed inside. All who enter the Blue Mosque must remove their shoes and remain silent. Women must wear head coverings. There are no similar restrictions for visitors to Hagia Sofia.
Built in the 6th century, Hagia Sofia’s history goes back 1500 years. Below is a quote from an article in Focus Mediterranean Magazine about the amazing history of this magnificent structure. “Many say that Hagia Sophia was built on the site of an ancient pagan temple. Documents show that the first Hagia Sophia was built by Emperor Constantius, son of Emperor Constantinos I, and opened for services in 360 AD. Although very little is known about this church, experts think it was a basilica-type structure with a rectangular floor plan, circular apse, and timbered roof. It was similar to St. Studios Monastery, another basilica in Istanbul, the ruins of which still exist.”
As mentioned in my first blog from Istanbul there is a breathtaking view of Hagia Sofia from the window in my hotel room. No matter how many pictures I take, none of them begin to do it justice. It’s wonderful waking up and going to sleep looking at it and I will miss the view when sadly I leave Istanbul tomorrow. The time spent in Istanbul has truly been an enlightening experience.
The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles surrounding the walls of its interior. Built between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I the mosque houses his tomb.
“Following the Peace of Zsitvatorok (1606) and the unfavorable result of the wars with Persia, Sultan Ahmed I built a huge mosque in Istanbul. The mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors. It faces the Hagia Sophia (at that time the most venerated mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of great symbolic significance. Large parts of the southern side of the Blue Mosque rest on the foundation and vaults of the Great Palace.”