Europe 2016 Day 12.2: Hagia Sophia


Coming out from the Topkapi Palace, my next stop was the Hagia Sophia [Ayasofya]. The two places are actually very close to each other, so the walk was short.

While I was making my way to the main entrance, I noticed this side entrance. The signboard reads [Ayasofya Museum: The Tombs of the Sultans].

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Huh… I thought the Hagia Sophia was a church, so to have tombs of Sultans here, it was quite intriguing. So I entered to check things out.

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Tomb of Sultan Mehmed III

I wonder if many people are aware of this tomb section. The place was deserted… bar me and another nerdy looking Korean lady who kind of (I think) followed after me after she saw my curious face from the outside.

Actually, I wonder if these are actual tombs. As in, whether the sarcophagi of the Sultans and the royal family are really inside these green coffins. I would’ve expected greater level of security and scrutiny by permanent staff for actual royal tombs. πŸ™„

Anyway, let’s get out and get to the main entrance of this church.

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Ayasofya. Majestic, isn’t it?
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Visitor entrance

As I had the Museum Pass with me, I was able to skip through the queue at the tickets counter (not that there was a long queue at that time anyway) and walk right in. Individual ticket for the Hagia Sophia costs 40 TL (as of 2016).

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Floor plan of Ayasofya
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Entrance into the church
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Inside the church
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Posters depicting the history of Ayasofya

It was interesting to go through the history of Ayasofya. I thought this is just a very famous church in Istanbul. And I was wrong. Ayasofya was first built in the 3rd century. It was originally a church, but when Sultan Mehmed II conquered Istanbul (Constantinople) in 1453, he ordered this place to be turned into a mosque. Then in 1935, when the Turkey as a republic was borned, Kemal Ataturk transformed Ayasofya into a museum instead to prevent Muslims and Christians in Istanbul to fight each other for the rights to the building.

Ayasofya is a museum that used to be a mosque that was converted from a church. Yeah, the fact that it is what it is, is enough justification to merit a visit.

Sultan Mehmed II and Ayasofya

By the way, Sultan Mehmed II might not sound familiar or interesting to you. What if I tell you he is also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottoman Sultan who defeated Vlad the Impaler and forced the latter to make a bargain with the devil to become Dracula?

Okay, the italics are all myth rather than historical fact, but still… the Sultan who defeated Dracula’s human incarnation, isn’t that intriguing?

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Slideshow of the history of Ayasofya

The Ayasofya is made up of two levels. Before I explore the ground floor, I went upstairs first…

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It was steep ramps rather than stairs to go up
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The Upper Gallery
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View downstairs. There’s restoration construction works in here too, a bit disappointing
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The upper gallery is filled with these murals of Jesus with Eastern Roman emperors who built this church
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But a great many of them have been desecrated when Mehmed II took over

See the small picture on the bottom right? That’s what they think the original mural used to be…

To be honest, there wasn’t much to see upstairs, so I went back downstairs through the same treacherous ramps…


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Wooo! Big chandelier!
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The dome (Would’ve been much better without the construction stuff)
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The altar/mihrab

I did not get the audio guide here, but when I was near the altar, there was a tour group right next to me, so I got to listen to the story of this altar. And the story is as such:

The building was originally a church, so the main altar windows were facing east. But Muslims need to pray facing the Kaaba in Mecca. So they erected a mihrabΒ to replace the altar and it is slightly angled because that is the direction of Mecca.

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Everyone takes photos of this patch of floor, so I did too!
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Same goes for this… room
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There wasn’t much else going on to be honest, so it was time to leave
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This is the fountain where they get the water to wash up before/after going into the mosque for prayers.

And it was time to leave for my third stop of the day…

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One last shot of the Ayasofya!

I think this is a nice place to visit and go into. But I do think that 40 TL is kind of… expensive. Sure, 40 TL is like, 14€, but theyΒ have visitors from all over the world, not just from rich European/American countries. I think it is very unfair for them to charge a European price for entry. πŸ™„


  1. Interesting…Looks very adventurous inside… like those in the movies… Steep ramps? Reminds me of the moment I was being wheeled into the museum in Paris… We have to go either into lifts or ramps, otherwise I have to wait at the ground floor for my son and friend.

    • Hahaha, the ramps here are not smooth at all! I don’t think your wheelchair can go up this one. It would be too bumpy! πŸ™„

  2. I love this place and many things impressed me like the texture and patterns on the floor, walls up to the ceiling’s dome!! Cantek lah!

    I thought hard about that Sultan Mehmed’s tombs. I think the cloths coverings had a reason unknown. Maybe it was damaged or under repairs.

    I have been inside real different mausoleums with tombs of the 2 Emperors in China. They were so eerie even for a fearless devil like me.

    • You know that tomb is Sultan Mehmed III, which is not the famous one. The famous one, Mehmed the Conqueror, was Sultan Mehmed II. Two.

      No leh, there were 5 different tombs, all 5 also covered in same green cloth. I don’t think they were under repair, they were open for public to view. Maybe because they were less famous I think. The famous Sultans’ tombs were nowhere to be seen. πŸ™„

  3. Very nice architecture. If I were you and see that the tomb area is deserted, I won’t dare go in. I think the Korean lady dare not go in alone and followed when she saw you go in.

    • Actually I did not know it would be so deserted. I thought there would be tourists inside. But turns out, nope…

  4. Really impressive architecture, from church turn into mosque, interesting…so can say that this building has two different cultural, not many building can remain like this, because mostly they will just demolish the whole building.

    • Yeah, very rare. I think maybe there’s also one in Jerusalem, when Saladin conquered Jerusalem they turned the church into mosque, but cannot remember the name of it…

  5. I think those tombs not real.. Dunno how true la, but I heard those pyramids and those terracottas kat Xian pun, they “re-do” or something like that.. The dome (minus the construction thingy) looks like Angels & Demons punya shooting like that, hehe..

    • Not surprising actually. The real things probably safely kept away from the public in case some idiots try to steal them…

  6. Hagia Sophia looks like a good place to visit if you like intricate architecture. I too doubt the tombs are real…but you never know. I am sure the security is pretty good.

    Steps or ramp, either way, if it’s an incline it’s hard to go up. And what were you doing, taking photos of those two girls (the photo ‘It was steep ramps rather than stairs to go up’). maybe they were travel companions for the day, I don’t know πŸ™„

    • Hahaha, what travel companions? It was a coincidence that the ladies were there struggling. #TrueStory πŸ˜›

  7. The treacherous ramps sound so interesting. The interior looks so ancient especially the stone walls in the steep ramps photo. Imagine people living in the olden days working in this building need to go upstairs downstairs many times a day walking on the dangerous ramps. So much exercise and danger!

    Like NuxV says, thanks for showing us the photos of interior and exterior. Now we don’t have to go there to visit anymore since we are not Sheta who is very interested in architecture.

    • The more treacherous and danger it is, the more it shows their devoted-ness ma… πŸ˜›

      You also same lah, you not planning to travel by air, you won’t be going to Istanbul also πŸ˜› …

  8. great! now tht u show those pics on Hagia Sophia…I dun have to go there anymore…40TL is really expensive…but well, can’t complain much since our RM is so weak…blame it on our own…*I better keep my mouth shut!

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