Hagia Sophia Facts

Hagia Sophia is a former church in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built as a church in 537 when the city was still called Constantinople.

It became a mosque in 1453 and has been a museum since 1935. The church took less than six years to build. It was built by Emperor Justinian and turned into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II.

Hagia Sophia is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This is mostly because of its amazing architecture, such as the huge full dome and two half domes that make up part of the ceiling.

It is a stunning example of architecture from the Byzantine Empire, which was the eastern part of the Roman Empire that existed from 330 until 1453 A.D.

Today millions of people visit the museum each year.

Hagia Sophia Facts for Kids

  • When it was built, it was the largest structure in the world! It was also the largest cathedral in the world for over 1,000 years.
  • Because of its history as both a church and a mosque, there are both Christian and Islamic elements and features in Hagia Sophia.
  • The name Hagia Sophia means ‘Church of the Holy Wisdom’. This is actually the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to be built at the same location – the two that were built earlier were destroyed.
  • When it was turned into a mosque, four minarets – tall, thin towers often found on a mosque – were added. The altar, bells, and some other Christian features were removed and many Christian mosaics were plastered over.
  • In total there are 104 columns in Hagia Sophia, and many of the walls are covered in beautiful mosaics. The oldest one dates back to the 9th century. Many of the mosaics have been covered and uncovered over the years.
  • The former church is built from white, pink, and yellow marble.
  • The central dome is 182 feet above the ground and around 104 feet in diameter.
  • The building has survived quite some events. There was a big fire in 859 and an earthquake ten years later. Over the years, three further earthquakes caused damage to the dome and other parts of the building.
  • Some people say that Hagia Sophia has special healing powers. For example, some believe that if you drink a glass of water from the well in the building’s main hall on three Saturdays in a row, you may be cured of illness. Another part of the building believed to cure illness is the ‘Weeping Column’. This is a marble column that is always moist, even in summer!
  • The design of Hagia Sophia has been used for other mosques, such as the Blue Mosque of Istanbul. The two mosques are located just 900 or so feet apart!
  • There are forty windows in the main section of the former church. Because of this, Hagia Sophia is famous for the mystical light that reflects around the building.



Question: What were the three uses of Hagia Sophia over the years?
Answer: The building was used as a church, a mosque and a museum.

Question: What is it particularly famous for?
Answer: It is particularly famous for its architecture.