Hagia Sophia Interior Photos
Interior Photos of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sophia is the most iconic structure of the city of Istanbul. With its ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman heritage, Istanbul was the imperial capital throughout most of its history.
I mentioned in the article “History of Constantinople” how Istanbul, an ordinary ancient Greek city called Byzantium, became the capital of the Roman Empire.
Indeed, what changed the fate of Istanbul was that the Roman emperor Constantine declared Byzantium the second capital. Constantine, who gave the city its name, enabled the Roman Empire, which was in decline, to live in the east for another 1000 years.
Constantine was the first person to build Hagia Sophia. Its name was Megale Ekklesia at that time and it included another big church, Hagia Irene. I mentioned in the “Hagia Sophia Architecture” article how these churches were destroyed and rebuilt.
As a result, the 3rd generation Hagia Sophia was built in the period of Justinian, the famous emperor of Byzantine Empire, and has survived to this day. You can see rare examples of Byzantine art in Hagia Sophia today.
In this article, I will share the pictures I took in Hagia Sophia in 2016 and the years that followed. All photographs were taken by the author and copy rights belong to Serhat Engul. You can use it on your own site by linking to Istanbul Clues.
Panoramic Picture of Hagia Sophia
There are several hotels with a terrace in Sultanahmet, the heart of Istanbul’s Old City. Among them, “Seven Hills Hotel” is ideal for taking good pictures. Apart from this, the terrace of hotels such as Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Adamar Hotel and Hotel Arcadia Blue are also suitable for taking panoramic photos like this one.
Hagia Sophia from Sultanahmet Park
The most suitable place to take photos of Hagia Sophia from outside is Sultanahmet Park. You can photograph Hagia Sophia from various angles by walking around the fountain in the park. The most beautiful photos can be taken in the late afternoon.
Hagia Sophia from the Sultanahmet Square
Hagia Sophia Square is one of the suitable places to try street food in Istanbul. You can find freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, sweet corn and roasted chestnuts in the square, which is full of tourists at any time of the day. This lively environment will give you the opportunity to take beautiful photos of Hagia Sophia from the outside.
Remnants in the Courtyard of Hagia Sophia
When you start touring Hagia Sophia, you will first see these ruins in the garden. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Justinian’s Hagia Sophia is the third church built here. Nothing remained from the first church built by Constantine the Great. However, the remains of the second church built by Theodosius II can be seen in the courtyard.
Outer Narthex or the Outer Corridor
As soon as you step into Hagia Sophia, you will feel that the dome attracts you like a magnet. But if you want to get some basic information about the history of Hagia Sophia, you can examine these informative signs in the outer hallway.
Imperial Gate of Hagia Sophia
One of the most impressive views inside Hagia Sophia is that the Imperial Gate and The Apse appear simultaneously from the outer corridor. This view, which arouses great excitement in the visitor, encourages you to go inside immediately.
In the meantime, you can overlook the mosaic of the Byzantine Emperor Leon VI on the imperial gate and the golden ceiling mosaics adorning the interior corridor.
View of the Interior of Hagia Sophia
Emperor Leon VI Mosaic
In this mosaic dating from the 9th century, Byzantine emperor Leo VI the Wise kneels before Jesus. Virgin Mary can be seen in the medallion on the left and Archangel Gabriel in the medallion on the right. It is one of the most beautiful among “Christ Pantocrator Mosaics” in Istanbul.
Interior Photos of Hagia Sophia
I took this photo from the Empress Lodge on the second floor of Hagia Sophia. Justinian’s famous wife, Theodora, was watching religious ceremonies from here.
Since Hagia Sophia was built in a very short time like 5 years, it is said that some building elements were reused. Giant columns allegedly brought from the Temple of Artemis in the Ancient City of Ephesus can be seen on the right.
This photo is useful for viewing the interior of Hagia Sophia from a bird’s eye view. You notice more details as you look carefully at the picture. Since Hagia Sophia has a history of 1500 years, it has reached the present day with traces from all centuries.
Columns of the Temple of Artemis
We will never know if some things about medieval history are true. However, it is a pleasure to listen even the legends about a magnificent building like Hagia Sophia. If the columns used in the construction of Hagia Sophia belong to Ephesus Ancient City, even the rumor is exciting.
Empress Lodge on the Upper Gallery
I just shared the photo I took from the Empress Lodge. This time, I am sharing the image of the lodge from the ground floor. The lodge, where noble women from the Byzantine palace watched the coronation and religious ceremonies.
The Dome of the Hagia Sophia
This image should be the most beautiful photograph that includes the dome of Hagia Sophia. This is the only picture that does not belong to me in the photo collection I shared in this article.
The reason I had to share this photo is the restoration scaffolding, which has been standing in Hagia Sophia for 15 years. This pile of iron had been removed for only one year in 2010. Since I didn’t have a wide-angle lens at that time, I couldn’t take a picture like this.
For this reason, I am grateful to the person who took this photo. However, since I could not find the rightful owner, I cannot specify his name here.
Omphalion, where the Emperors were Crowned
Before the Hagia Sophia was built, the most important church of Constantinople was the Church of the Holy Apostles. However, Hagia Sophia created such excitement with its huge dimensions that it became the most important place of worship in time.
Religious ceremonies in which the Byzantine emperors were crowned were then being held in Hagia Sophia. Emperors were crowned here from 537 until the collapse in 1453.
The round marbles you will see on the ground in the photo were where the coronation was held. Each round marble has its own original color. Leading representatives of the state and the church stood in each spot. Emperors were crowned by the Patriarch of Constantinople, the leader of Eastern Christianity.
Interior Photos of Hagia Sophia
Theotokos Mosaic of the Hagia Sophia
One of the most interesting objects in the center of Hagia Sophia is the mosaic with the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus in her arms. The most important feature of this mosaic is that it is the oldest Byzantine mosaic in Hagia Sophia.
There is a period in the history of the Byzantine Empire called Iconoclasm, in which mosaics were destroyed. Since the old mosaics were destroyed during this period that lasted from 726 to 842 AD, the oldest mosaic in Istanbul is this mosaic made after the Byzantine Iconoclastic Controversy.
Marble Jars from Pergamon
One of the ancient works that contributed to the interior decoration of Hagia Sophia is Twin Marble Jars brought from the Ancient City of Pergamon. Ottoman sultans also made various attempts to decorate Hagia Sophia. Suleiman the Magnificent‘s grandson Murad III brought these marble jars from the Aegean coast.
Photos of the Upper Gallery of Hagia Sophia
The most beautiful mosaics in Hagia Sophia are on the second floor. Among them, the mosaic called Deesis is the most famous. This mosaic is seen as a renaissance of Byzantine art.
While visiting the upper floor, you can see how much Hagia Sophia was affected by earthquakes over time. Some of the columns on the upper floor are bent so visibly. Of course, not only earthquakes but also the enormous pressure created by the central dome has an effect on this.
Marble Door on the Second Floor
The Marble Door was placed to identify an area where only emperors and clergymen could pass. We know that two of the First seven ecumenical councils were held in Constantinople. One of these ecumenical councils was held in Hagia Irene and the other in Hagia Sophia. In other words, some of the most important decisions in the history of Christianity were made in the section behind this door.
Hagia Sophia Interior Photos
Deesis Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator
Deesis Mosaic is a 13th century Byzantine art work. In the mosaic depicting the Judgment day, Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist can be seen. The “Christ Pantocrator” figure in the mosaic is very impressive. It is a good experience to take a close look at the mosaic where the colors look original like the first day.
John II Komnenos and Eirene Mosaic
This mosaic shows John II, one of the emperors of the Komnenos Dynasty. John and Eirene, a very religious couple, developed good relations with the Byzantine church. Thanks to their donations, they were immortalized with a mosaic in Hagia Sophia.
Constantine IX Monomachos and Zoe Mosaic
When there was no male heir in the dynasties, the new emperor was determined through marriage. As a descendant of Basil II, one of the most important emperors of Byzantine history, Zoe was a famous empress. She had to marry 3 times for the continuation of the Byzantine dynasty. I told her story in detail in my other article called Uncovering the Mosaics of Hagia Sophia.
Runic inscriptions in Hagia Sophia
Palace soldiers guarding Byzantine emperors consisted of Scandinavian-origin soldiers. These soldiers, who also joins the battles, achieved important successes in Byzantine history. I made a reference to one of them in the article called Battle of Manzikert.
In the galleries on the upper floor, important meetings were held with the emperors and the clergy. A soldier from the guard regiment that accompanied these meetings is thought to have engraved his name on marbles.
These drawings, commonly known as “Viking Script”, are one of the things that Scandinavian people who come to Hagia Sophia are especially looking for.
Hagia Sophia Interior Photos
Mosaic of Justinian and Constantine
In this mosaic, you can see the two most important emperors of late Roman and early Byzantine history. This mosaic, located at the gate where the Hagia Sophia visit ends, symbolizes the two important emperors of the past.
Constantine, the founder of the city of Constantinople, symbolically presents the city to Jesus and Mary. Justinian, who built the Hagia Sophia, symbolically presents the church to the holy family.
This is the best preserved mosaic in the interior of Hagia Sophia. As can be seen in the photo, the mosaic is as perfect as a new one. The fact that it was able to resist earthquakes and time is proof of how advanced Byzantine mosaic art was. It should be noted that the mosaic is a thousand years old.
Beautiful Bronze Doors in Hagia Sophia
In the article, we talked about many things that were not originally part of the interior design of Hagia Sophia. Marble Jars brought from Pergamon, columns brought from Ephesus and finally these Bronze Doors brought from Tarsus. The history of these bronze doors brought by the Byzantine emperor Theophilos dates back to ancient times.
Monumental Fountain in the Courtyard
You will see a ceremonial fountain while leaving the Hagia Sophia. This historical work was added to Hagia Sophia during the Ottoman period. Hagia Sophia was the most important church of the city in the Byzantine period and the most important mosque in the Ottoman period. Both civilizations paid utmost importance to this historical structure.
In this article, I mostly shared photos of Hagia Sophia that describes the Byzantine period. However, there are also many works of art added during the Ottoman Empire and create a beautiful harmony.
© Copyrights: All photos, except one, belong to Serhat Engul, who wrote the article. You can use the photos in your own blog by linking to this article. If requested, I can provide full resolution versions for academic studies.