It’s one of the first things you notice when arriving in Sultanahmet, Istanbul – enormous minarets piercing up through the maze of buildings and trees. Though there are a scattering of minarets throughout the city, these are different. They stand taller than most and reflect a footprint of a building with some serious size.
Aya Sofya, though remaining unchanged in grandeur and importance, has been reborn as many things over the nearly two thousand years since it was built. Once a basilica, then a mosque, and now a museum, her changing purpose is evident in every corner. Frescoes reflect its days as a Christian Cathedral. Mosaics of Jesus still grace the archways on the top floor. Enormous medallions with Arabic script line the walls in the main room as evidence of Aya Sofya’s stint as the principal mosque in all of Istanbul. Low hanging chandeliers light up the domes and cobblestones.
Aside from marveling at all of the amazing artwork, it’s hard to forget that it is all housed in an impressive and immense structure. Soaring domed ceilings (all adorned with ornate designs, by the way) and tiled porticoes define its character while carefully chosen marbles draw interest to the walls.
And oh, the chandeliers. I’ve eyed these chandeliers on many travel sites and in articles over the years. This particular style of chandelier is not only used in Aya Sofya, but it was photos from this famous place that drew my eye. I’ve always loved the shape of the glass lanterns and the elegant yet simple design of the metal frames. The low to the ground placement under such towering ceilings is unique and feels thrilling and exotic.
A visit to Aya Sofya is a highlight when in Istanbul. It is one of Turkey’s most recognizable and famous icons and one of its most important UNESCO heritage sites. As such, the site is often packed with other visitors. The hum of echoing tour guides and lines of visitors carefully navigating the uneven cobblestones are just part of the experience these days. Even still, our visit left me with new inspiration.
Imagining how this building was created- the effort and artistry that went into planning every slab of marble that was used – is a reminder of whats possible, no matter how far fetched an idea may seem. Like embarking on long-term Travel. Or achieving a life long dream. Or owning a vineyard (hmm? what?)
Aya Sofya was built almost two millenia ago, long before modern construction things like tractors and motors we’re even an idea. Since it was built, it has been reborn in several iterations that were mostly likely never imagined by its builders. Aya Sofya is a shining example of the value of possibilities.
Check it out: TravelShus’ Interactive Guide to Istanbul