I know the title sounds daring, rather heavy, but I have no intention to take you either on an adventure sequence just like a Dan Brown book nor to go deep into philosophy or theology. Some of those who believe that they have found the “Holy Wisdom” say that they have found it, right next to them in their daily life someone says that they have found it in a Himalayan Buddhist Monastery or at least they have checked if it was there… Hi, my name is Turgut Şişman and I work at alpharooms.com as the Turkish local market manager. I am planning to visit my home town Istanbul soon and it was such a lovely coincidence that Alfie was in Istanbul this week. Congratulations to those who guessed it right! So I wanted to take this chance to write about my favourite place in Istanbul: Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia, is a former Orthodox Basilica and was built in the 6th Century and opened to public in 27 December 537, just about 1500 years ago. Up until 1204, it served as a Greek Patriarchal cathedral for almost 700 years. Under the Latin Empire, between 1204 and 1261, it served as a Roman Catholic cathedral and when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453, it was turned into a mosque and served as a mosque for almost 500 years.
Under Emperor Justinianos’ order, it took only 5 years and 10 months to finish the magnificent building thanks to approximately 1000 people who worked on its building process. No need to say that only the finest materials were used in the building and for the first time in history, a round dome fitted onto a rectangular building magically which later on changed many architectural rules. It also survived many big earthquakes, fires and wars throughout the history even the Crusaders. Following the capture of Constantinople during the 4th Crusade, Hagia Sophia was ransacked and desecrated by the Crusaders. The Byzantine historian Choniates described the capture of Istanbul; many reputed relics from the church such as a stone from the tomb of Jesus, the Virgin Mary’s milk, the shroud of Jesus, and bones of several saints were sent to churches in the West and can be seen there now in various museums.
The name of the church comes from Greek word of “Wisdom”, “Sophia”. “Wisdom” is the central idea in Hellenistic philosophy and sophiology is a philosophical concept related to wisdom as well as a theological concept regarding the wisdom of the biblical God.
Istanbul is also full of magnificent Ottoman mosques and all of them differ from the classical Arabic architecture. It is not a secret that many Ottoman architects as well as empires were inspired by the beauty of Hagia Sophia and raced with her in terms of beauty. Hagia Sophia, along with Topkapı Place, has shaped Istanbul’s silhouette and always been an iconic building for Istanbul.
Istanbul has been the capital of 4 great empires, Romans, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires and Hagia Sophia always has been the jewel in the crown for these empires. Despite its incredible age, almost 1660 years old, Hagia Sophia is still attracting visitors from all over the world. For the first time in history, Hagia Sophia is now a museum (since 1935) in order to emphasize that Modern Turkey is a secular republic.
Hagia Sophia is right in the heart of Istanbul’s old town. It is impossible to miss and so easy to find just like its name. When you are in İstanbul, make sure that this magnificent museum is on your list of places to visit. It is very close to Istanbul’s other treasures such as Topkapı Palace, Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Blue Mosque, Byzantine Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, Spice Market…
On the other hand, if you think you can find the “Holy Wisdom” in shopping, I suggest that you pay a visit to the Grand Baazar which is only a short walk away from Hagia Sophia or check out the “Akmerkez Shopping Centre”. If you are keen to search for holy happiness in Turkish cuisine, then “Konyalı Lokantası” is a very popular restaurant among local Turks and in this 147 year old establishment, you can taste very classic Istanbul dishes at good prices.
Finally if you like to search for holy wisdom or happiness on a nice, sandy beach why not travel to the south of Turkey to the Turkish Riviera following your city break in Istanbul. Here are some of the most visited beach destinations in Turkey: Antalya, Bodrum, Marmaris, Didim, Dalaman, Fethiye, Datça, Dalyan…
Make a wise decision this summer and visit Istanbul as there are so many hotel and flight deals available. You never know, it might change your life forever.
See you in Turkey.
Congratulations to Christine Caple who has won this week’s Where in the World Wednesday competition! A £25 alpharooms.com voucher is on its way to you.