The Hagia Sophia, which was burned down twice, used to be a church and is now a mosque.


The Hagia Sophia, a church turned mosque turned museum, sits majestically at almost 1,500 years old. Its beauty is timeless. It is as architecturally impressive now as it was back then.

In 1453, Constantinople, now Istanbul, was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Everything was destroyed and burned to the ground. But Sultan Mehmed II was so enamored by The Hagia Sophia that he ordered it to be turned it into a mosque.

During the building’s conversion from church to mosque, many of the mosaics were covered because Islam disapproves of representational depictions. The church’s altar, bells, iconic images and sacrificial vessels were replaced with Islamic features like the mihrab, the minbar, and minarets.

After being burnt down twice, The Hagia Sophia was rebuilt by Emperor Justinian and is now entirely fireproof. Inside, there are eight huge circular wooden boards. Each one has the name of Allah, the prophet Muhammad, the first four caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, and the two grandchildren of Mohammed, Hassan and Hussain, written on it.

The most interesting, and probably the most unsanitary, thing I came across was the Wish Column, aka the Sweating Column. Millions of tourist have stuck their grimy thumbs into the hole and made a wish as they turned their palm 360 degrees. It is the only thing in The Hagia Sophia that visitors are allowed to touch.

It’s grand in size but no exception to the masses and tour groups that flood the museum armed with cameras. With any tourist attraction, the weekend is war. Every other day is fair game. Just don’t go on Mondays. It’s closed.

Monica reflects on her travels by sharing her thoughts on A Cup of Moca. She writes about her journey as she experiences the destination to encourage others to marinate in the moment instead of just checking things off a bucket list.