Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are two of Istanbul’s best-known and most beloved attractions in Sultanahmet Square. The magnificent architecture of both structures is indescribably beautiful, and their history seems endless. From early morning to dusk, rain or shine, long lines of visitors admire the exterior of these two amazing structures and wait to view the inside. The buildings face each other from opposite ends of a park with a beautiful water fountain between them.
For Muslims the ancient Blue Mosque is holy. It’s an active mosque. Five times a day during prayer (sala), tourists and non-worshipers are not allowed inside. Those who enter remove their shoes and remain silent. Women must wear head coverings. There are no similar restrictions for Hagia Sophia.
Built in the 6th century, the history of this magnificent structure goes back 1500 years. The quote below is from an article in Focus Mediterranean Magazine.
“Many say 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. It opened for services in 360 AD. Although very little is known about the church, experts think it was a basilica-type structure with a circular apse, rectangular floor plan, and timbered roof. It was like St. Stoudios Monastery, another basilica in Istanbul, the ruins of which still exist.”
Mentioned in my first blog from Istanbul there’s a breathtaking view of Hagia Sophia from the hotel room window. 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.
The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is named 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 an unfavorable result of the Persian wars, Sultan Ahmed I built a huge mosque in Istanbul. The mosque was built on the site of the palace of Byzantine emperors. It faces Hagia Sophia (one of the most venerated mosques in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a significant, symbolic site. Large parts of the southern side of Blue Mosque rest on the foundation and vaults of The Great Palace.”
Sadly, I’m leaving Istanbul tomorrow. This time spent here has truly been an exciting and enlightening experience.