Seventh grade History of Ancient and Modern Global Empires class was where I first learned about the Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia). While discussing the Ottoman conquest of the city of Constantinope, our teacher showed us pictures of this indescribable architectural masterpiece. We talked about how it was built as a church, but was then converted into a mosque after Mehmet II took control of Istanbul. And just like that, Istanbul became the place in the world that I most wanted to visit.
And then I wouldn’t shut up about it. I asked my parents if we could go on vacations to Istanbul, and told people it was where I aspired to go. My brother still makes fun of me for harping so incessantly on the subject. When asked why I wanted to go so badly, I always cited the Ayasofya as one of my primary reasons. Despite the fact that both my parents are architects, I’d never had such an intense, almost visceral response to a building before in my life. To me, the Ayasofya represented the essence of the rich culture and history of the city.
Last weekend, our program went on a walking tour of the historical district of Istanbul, and our first stop was the Ayasofya. I was both incredibly excited and simultaneously afraid that it somehow could never live up to eight or so years of mostly uninformed and somewhat arbitrary anticipation. But that wasn’t the case at all.
When you enter the Ayasofya, you are immediately aware of the massive scale of the structure. The entrance doorway looms above you and beyond it you can see the top of one of the lower half-domes that supports the central dome.
The inner space is so huge that it’s impossible to capture effectively by camera from the ground floor. The floor sprawls out before you and the columns and archways tower over your head. The main dome is breathtaking.
From the upper level, you can get a better sense of the entire space.
We only spent about a half hour there, and I feel like I could have stayed for an entire day. I’m already looking forward to going back again.