Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are the two best-known and most beloved attractions in Istanbul. The architecture of both structures is indescribably beautiful and their history seems endless. From early morning to dusk, rain or shine, there are long lines of people admiring the exterior of these amazing structures and waiting to get inside. The two face each other from opposite ends of a city park with a beautiful water fountain between them.
For Muslims the Blue Mosque is the most holy. It’s an active mosque. During prayer times throughout the day tourists and non-worshippers are not allowed inside. All who enter the Blue Mosque must remove their shoes and remain silent. Women wear head coverings. There are no such restrictions for Hagia Sofia.
Built in the 6th century, Hagia Sofia’s history goes back 1500 years. Below is a quote from an article in Focus Mediterranean Magazine. This link to the magazine’s website is a great reference for anyone interested in the amazing history of this magnificent structure – http://www.focusmm.com/civilization/hagia/history.htm. Extensive preservation and restoration work is in process at Hagia Sofia.
“Although there are no artifacts confirming it, many say that 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, and opened for services in 360 AD. Although very little is known about this church, experts think it was a basilica-type structure with a rectangular floor plan, circular apse, and timbered roof. It was similar to St. Studios, a basilica in Istanbul, the ruins of which still exist.”
As mentioned in my first blog from Istanbul there is a breathtaking view of Hagia Sofia from the window in my hotel room. 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 and I will miss the view when I leave Istanbul tomorrow.
The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is known as 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 the unfavorable result of the wars with Persia, Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a huge mosque in Istanbul. The mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors facing the Hagia Sophia (at that time the most venerated mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of great symbolic significance. Large parts of the southern side of the Blue Mosque rest on the foundation and vaults of the Great Palace.”
This is a good link for obtaining more details about the history of the Blue Mosque – http://www.bluemosque.co/history.html.