The "Nice Door" is a pair of bronze doors carved with flora and geometric designs that are situated at the southern entrance. The greatest door within Hagia Sophia is the "Emperor Door." It features a wood frame and a bronze frame. The minbar is a building where Islamic prayer leaders offer sermons. The term comes from the Arabic for "a pulpit," which is what these wooden structures resemble. Today, the minbar is used as a place where a Muslim leader can lead prayers.
Inside the minbar are two rows of cushions for prayer leaders to sit on. There are more than 100 such minbars in mosques around the world. They are usually made of wood and contain shelves for books. A small table may be attached to the back for writing notes.
Hagia Sophia was originally built as a Christian church but then converted into a mosque in 1453 after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Although it is not known who designed the Nice Doors, they are thought to have been created somewhere between 1160 and 1190. They were probably made by Byzantine artists who had moved to Italy - where many other artifacts from the original church buildings in Constantinople can still be seen today.
It was originally located at the entrance of the former Byzantine palace complex in Constantinople and only came to be placed at the entrance of Hagia Sophia in the 15th century.
The Hagia Sophia is a domed structure that was initially erected as a church in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in the sixth century A.D. It has two storeys and is centered on a massive nave with a large dome roof and smaller domes soaring above. The building served at first as a cathedral and later as a mosque for hundreds of years.
The great dome of the Hagia Sophia is now used as a museum where many of its original features can be seen. It is one of the largest single-dome buildings in the world and took more than ten years to complete. The huge size of the dome and the building itself can be understood when we know that it was intended not only as a place of worship but also as a public forum and palace where the emperor would hold court.
It's been a mosque since 1453 and today it functions as a museum where you can see many of its original features including the huge dome which now serves as a symbol of Istanbul and of Islam worldwide. The building was originally constructed as a church but then converted into a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. During this time of conversion, some of the religious symbols were removed but the dome was left intact. So today you can see the beautiful work of artistry inside the building but it's still considered a mosque because of its origins.
Hagia Sophia, one of the world's most outstanding structures, has been claimed by both East and West and has served as a cultural bridge between them. From numerous angles, including architecture, structure, history, myth, adornment, and its effect on world architecture, it is difficult to compare this building with any other. It is certainly among the top five or ten attractions in Istanbul and has become one of the best-known churches in Christendom.
Hagia Sophia was built over a period of approximately 15 years (1253-1267) by the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus (1235-1282). The project was initiated under spectacular circumstances: during the Fourth Crusade in 1243, the leaders of the crusade captured Constantinople and carried away many treasures from the city including a number of icons which were placed in various churches across Europe. One of these icons was found by a merchant in Venice and bought by a church committee who sent two members to visit the site of the icon's discovery to verify its authenticity. They were so impressed by what they saw that they had the icon transported back to Venice where it remained for several decades until it was acquired by a French priest named Jacques de Voragine who donated it to the Latin Church in Constantinople.
The priest was inspired by the story of Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, to build a new church on the site where the icon had appeared.
The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I erected Hagia Sophia, or the Church of Holy Wisdom, on the site of a ruined basilica of the same name. It was one of the world's largest domed constructions when it was finished in 537, and it would serve as the primary Orthodox Christian church for the next 900 years. In 1453, the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II captured the city after a long siege, and used it as a mosque named "Cistern of God". The church was restored to Christianity under Greek control in 1844, and today it functions as a museum.
Justinian wanted to build a worthy replacement for the old basilica, but he died before finishing it. His wife Theodora took charge of the project and completed it within five years. The interior design reflects Theodora's taste, which was inspired by ancient Greece. She also hired expert builders from around the empire to work on the project so that it would be done properly. The huge dome is supported by four massive pillars and covers an area of about 32 meters square. It is made of thick layers of mortar and stone bonded together with wax and wooden pegs.
Hagia Sophia is important because it shows the high culture of the Byzantine Empire. The architecture and art of this era were very different from those of Rome (the capital of the Roman Empire). They were more sophisticated but also much less available since they were produced by an elite group of scholars and artists.
The enormous interiors of the Hagia Sophia, one of the greatest remaining Byzantine architectural wonders, were adorned artistically with gigantic marble pillars, precious mosaics, and other coverings. The two marble archangels, Gabriel and Michaes, may still be seen there. They stand on either side of an entrance door that is surmounted by a great carved wooden door with many locks.
The interior of the church was completely rebuilt in the 14th century under the Ottoman Turks. It remains a beautiful place to visit, even today.
The building's name comes from the Greek word for "holy spirit," which is what Catholics believe in instead. Christians of all denominations have been visiting the site since its restoration as a mosque in the 15th century. Today it serves primarily as a museum devoted to Turkish and Islamic art.
It's easy to visit the Hagia Sophia - just show up any time between 9am and 4pm during opening hours (8:30am-7:30pm in summer). Admission is free but donations are welcome. There are information boards in several languages outside the main entrance explaining the history of the building. A small exhibit on the first floor explores different aspects of medieval Muslim culture through photographs and artifacts.