As long as I live, I will never forget the Aya Sophia of Istanbul

** Don’t forget to check out the first episode of my Turkey travel show at the bottom of this post where I am in the thriving hub of Istanbul. It’s not to be missed. **

Having studied medieval history in university and even high school, the Aya Sophia of Istanbul or the Hagia Sophia cathedral has always been on the top end of my travel list.

Dedicated by Byzantine Emperor Constantius II in the year 360 A.D, the first of three cathedrals was built on the orders of the rather famous fellow known as Constantine the Great, the founder of Constantinople itself.

After the wooden cathedral was burned, the second cathedral (built by Emperor Theosidius) was subsequently destroyed during the Nika Riots of the 6th century A.D. Seemingly doomed, Emperor Justinian I built the Aya Sophia only weeks after the deadly riots saw the cathedral razed.

Famed architects Anthemius of Tralles and the Elder Isidore of Miletus were commissioned by the Emperor to oversee construction of the cathedral designed to rival all others in the known world.

Known as masters of mechanics, their task was to build a world wonder. Constructed in only five years, and with rare stones from across the empire, the cathedral rivals those built across Europe nearly seven centuries later.

Ten thousand workers were put to task carrying material from Egypt, Syria and other places around the Mediterranean. Columns were even carried from the famed Ancient World Wonder, the Artemis Temple for use in the construction of the Aya Sophia.

Well versed in statistics, kinetics and mathematics, Anthemius and Isidore were excellent builders, but the cost of the cathedral was incredible. It is reported when Justinian saw the completed Hagia Sophia, otherwise known as the Church of the Divine Wisdom, he cried out these words.

“My God, I am grateful to you for choosing me to complete this monument. I am now greater than Solomon.”

In the fourth century A.D, the Roman Empire moved its seat of power away from Rome and centered it on Constantinople. The third cathedral, the one seen today, has withstood the test of time–nearly 1,500 years of time to be exact.

In 1453, Constantinople fell to the invading Ottoman Empire and the Aya Sophia was converted into a mosque. Mosaics were painted over and icons of the past Byzantine age were forgotten.

Though converted to an Islamic mosque in the 15th century, the relative tranquility of the resulting centuries–no massive sieges to note–may in fact have led to the preservation of one of the world’s most incredible buildings.

Today, restoration work has brought out many of the Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, illuminating an age many deemed forgotten. As I walked into the cathedral, my breath was taken away by the sheer scope and brilliance of the building.

Light still pours into the cathedral, much as it would have 1,500 years ago and one walks through the giant iron doors into the splendid building commissioned by an Emperor remembered for his coding of law as well as his building projects.

Some of the best memories I’ll ever have of the Aya Sophia were shooting timed-exposure night photographs of Justinian I’s pride and joy. Taken at midnight, some of these photographs are my favourites.

Welcome everyone to the first episode of Traveling with Krushworth where I visit the sights of Istanbul, the capital of Turkey. There’s many more videos in the series, found under the video tab but here’s the Istanbul episode. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed creating it. Happy travels.

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