Istanbul, Hagia Sophia at sunset

Hagia Sophia received 1.5 million visits since its conversion into a mosque

Built in 532 by the Roman Emperor Justinian I as an Orthodox Christian basilica, in 1453 it was consecrated as a mosque.

Hagia Sophia has received a large number of visits since it was reopened as a mosque at the end of last July after operating as a museum since 1934: in total more than 1.5 million people visited this iconic monument in Istanbul in these two months, according to the mufti of the city.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Professor Mehmet Emin Maşalı said that during this time the measures against the coronavirus pandemic have been strictly applied to visits, allowing entry only in small groups. “People are also very conscientious and adhere to social distancing indoors,” Maşalı said, adding that Hagia Sophia has continued to receive large numbers of tourists despite the pandemic.

Built as a great basilica by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I in 532 AD, Hagia Sophia served as an Orthodox Christian temple – except during Latin rule after the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 – until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 in the hands of the Ottoman Turks, when it was consecrated by Sultan Mehmet II as a mosque.

For almost five centuries, Hagia Sophia was a mosque until after the foundation of the Turkish Republic, in 1934 it was reopened as a museum. One of the most visited monuments in Turkey and an icon of Istanbul, in 1985 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. On July 10, 2020, the Turkish justice ruled after 86 years that its conversion into a museum had been illegal, being reopened as a mosque in a historic ceremony on July 24.