The Magic of Hagia Sofia

I had dreamed of visiting the Hagia Sofia for years, so I felt cold chills when the taxi from the airport happened to drive past it on the way to the hotel.  For me, it is maybe the most interesting church (and mosque) in the world.

Thus, it was the first place I went to visit after a well slept night at the hotel. This visit was just one of the things on my list of places I have to see.

Hagia Sofia is actually the third church of the location. The first was built by Constantine already in the 4th century, the second by Theodosius in the 5th century and the present by Justianius in the 6th century. It was the greatest church of Christendom until 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror conquered Istanbul and converted it into a mosque.

The conversion into a mosque was made with grace, i.e. the church’s mosaics were only covered by paint. That saved them to the present day. Atatürk made Hagia Sofia a museum in 1934. For me it feels like a place where Christendom and Islam lives side by side in peace.

Hagia Sofia has witnessed the crusades, the conquest of Constantinople and many earthquakes. It is one of the most impressive buildings in the world.

Outside Hagia Sofia 

A really happy traveller has just made reality of one of his dreams.


The best place for overview pictures is the park between Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.

The inner narthex 

The Inner Narthex. On the left in the middle is the Imperial Door.

The Imperial Door 

The Imperial Door was only used by Imperial Processions. The floor is worn on the left and right by the Imperial Guards.

Hagia Sofia inside view

Under the incredible main dome.

Hagia Sofia lamps

The lamps, that remind some people of something… (hey, I didn’t say it!)

Sultan’s loge in Hagia Sofia 

The Sultan’s loge (some  privacy)

The Weeping Pillar 

Turning your thumb in the Weeping Pillar is said to cure illnesses, if the thumb gets moist. Mine got moist. I feel good.

Christ as Pantocrator

The Mosaic of Christ as Pantocrator (9th century).

Viking graffiti in Hagia Sofia

Halvdan was probably a Viking mercenary of the Imperial Guard, who got bored and made some graffiti in the gallery in the 9th century. It humbles me to think that someone from Scandinavia found his way to Hagia Sofia over a thousand years before me.

Martin at the Hagia Sofia gallery

Looking over the magnificent Hagia Sofia from the gallery. 


  1. i just came back from istanbul, and ofcourse hagia sofia, and i looked for the vikings in there, but could not find it, where was it????? i was told it was on second floor? :))

  2. Hello! I would like to ask permission to use your photos in my classroom. I went to Istanbul last week with my family, but unfortunately had my camera stolen in Napoli and all mine are gone. I like the ones you took and like to use them in a slideshow for students. Can you respond via email? Many thanks!

  3. I found this just by googling “viking graffiti in hagia sophia”
    I’m in Istanbul now and visited Hagia Sophia earlier today, I’m so disappointed I didn’t know about the viking graffiti before going!

    Great pictures!

  4. Being a Norwegian of Viking descent I was taken by awe as I saw the Viking grafitti i Hagia Sofia. I could clearly identify the runes and I almost felt the bored Viking guardsman in the Emperor’s service, who scratched his name onto the marble slab, standing next to me. I shall never forget it – it remains one of the highligts of my visit to fantastic Istanbul.

  5. Aw, this was an extremely good post. Spending some time and
    actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a
    lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s