The Hagia Sophia was built in the year 360 AD, and was renovated in 415. In 537, Justinianus ordered the re-building of the church in magnificent style. Miraculously, the ground floor has 40, and the upper floor has 67 columns. It has a surface of 7500 m2, and 1,070 windows. From the day it was opened, The Hagia Sophia has been subject to both glamorous days and defeat.
Many times, it was destroyed by earthquakes, and rebuilt again. In 1504, when the Latins occupied Istanbul, the church received its share of looting. For example, the Latins ripped the jewel-covered crosses from the pillars on the upper floor. The Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates described the capture of Constantinople; many reputed relics from the church – such as a stone from the tomb of Jesus, the shroud of Jesus, and bones of saints – were sent to churches in Europe and can be seen there now in various museums. During the Lation occupation of Constantinople the church became a Roman Catholic cathedral.
Before the Ottoman conquest The Hagia Sophia was in ruins
At the end of the Byzantian era, The Hagia Sophia was in ruins. After the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih, he rode his horse directly to The Hagia Sophia . In front of the door, he got off his horse, took a handful of earth from the ground, and sprinkled it over his turban as a symbol of respect.In the following era, he took good care of The Hagia Sophia . Just like in the Byzantine era, the building was renovated frequently. Four of the minarets bear the signatures of three sultans, namely Fatih Sultan Mehmet, his son Beyazit II and Murat III.
Mosaics were plastered up
The story goes that in this niche, Fatih Sultan Mehmet prayed for the first time. On the upper floor, you will find many circular wooden boards from the Ottoman period, that have a diameter of 7.5 meters. Fatih left the mosaics intact when he converted the church into a mosque. In the following years, the mosaics were plastered up. After the mosque became a museum, one has tried to remove the plaster again, and as a result, the mosaics re-appeared. Carnelius Loos, sent to Istanbul by the Swedish king Karl XII in 1710, made detailed drawings of the mosaics. This shows that the Ottomans did not plaster the mosaics up in those times. It is said that during prayer, the mosaics used to be covered with cloths.
Restoration of Fossati brothers
The most famous restoration of The Hagia Sophia was ordered by Sultan Abdülmecid and completed between 1847 and 1849, under the Swiss-Itailan architect brothers Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati. The brothers consolidated the dome and vaults, and revised the decoration of the exterior and the interior of the building. The Mosaics in the upper gallery were totaly cleaned. The old chandeliers were replaced by new ones. They were inscribed with the names of Allah, the Prophet Muhammed, the first four caliphs names, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed, by the calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa İzzed Efendi, the greatest calligrapher of that era. In 1850 the architect Fossati built a new Sultan's gallery connected to the royal pavilion behind the mosque. Outside The Hagia Sophia , a timekeeper's building and a new medrese were built. When the restoration was finished, the Mosque was re-opened with ceremonial pomp on 13 July 1849.
Hagia Sophia converted into a museum
In the 1930s, the American Thomas Whittemore made a request to clean up the mosaics. In 1932, the process started and the mosaics were made visible again. In 1935, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk transformed the building into a museum. Although use of the complex as a place of worship (mosque or church) should be strictly prohibited, in 2006 the Turkish government allowed the allocation of a small room in the museum complex to be used as a prayer room for Christian and Muslim museum staff.