14-06-2024 - Places

The Little Hagia Sophia Mosque: An Architectural Marvel in Istanbul

Istanbul is a unique city that has hosted many civilizations throughout history and contains traces of different cultures. Its strategic importance, with its geographical location connecting Asia and Europe, includes traces from different periods. It was the capital of the Roman Empire, followed by the Byzantine Empire and then the Ottoman Empire.

These riches of Istanbul, whose name has changed throughout its history and has hosted many cultures, are revealed at every step as you wander through the city streets. Historical buildings and monuments, from Hagia Sophia to Sultanahmet, from Topkapi Palace to the Grand Bazaar, make Istanbul a world-class centre of culture and history.

Every structure in this magnificent city has a story of its own. One of these stories is the story of Little Hagia Sophia Mosque. Little Hagia Sophia is a critical structure located in the historical peninsula of Istanbul, attracting attention with its architectural beauty. This church was built during the Byzantine period and has undergone many changes. Today, it serves as a mosque that holds an important place in the cultural mosaic of Istanbul.

Little Hagia Sophia Mosque makes an important contribution to Istanbul's fascinating texture, with its rich historical and cultural heritage extending from the past to the present.

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About Little Hagia Sophia Mosque

The Little Hagia Sophia Mosque was converted from a church originally built by Emperor Justinianos (527-565) and named after Sergios Bakkhos. As you approach this unassuming structure, you'll notice its simplicity, a testament to a different era. The small domed building exudes a quiet charm, surrounded by a small green garden. Despite its modest appearance, the significance of this place echoes through the ages.

Please take a moment to appreciate the serenity of its surroundings, hidden away in the Kumkapi neighbourhood. It may not boast intricate carvings or elaborate designs, but its humble presence holds a wealth of history and cultural importance. Step inside and discover the hidden treasures within the walls of Little Hagia Sophia. Double the quality of your Little Hagia Sophia Mosque tour with a great FREE audio guide.

History of Little Hagia Sophia

Emperor Justinian I, known for his grand buildings, like the Hagia Sophia, had this place built between 527 and 536 CE. Initially, it was called the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, honouring two soldiers who were Christian martyrs. This church was remarkable because of its unique design, with a giant dome in the middle, which was quite new back then. It might have even inspired the design of the more significant Hagia Sophia.

Jump forward to the time after the Ottomans took over Constantinople in 1453. They changed the church into a mosque called Küçük Ayasofya Camii, or Little Hagia Sophia Mosque. They added a tall tower called a minaret and a school for religious learning. Over the years, the mosque faced some problems like earthquakes and dampness. During wars, it even became a home for people who needed shelter. But thanks to restoration work, it's still standing strong today.

What to See in Little Hagia Sophia

From the outside, you'll notice this ancient structure's simple yet elegant design. Built with bricks and mortar, it is a testament to the architectural techniques of its time. The walls are strengthened by chains made of small stones, adding to their durability.

Little Hagia Sophia is octagonal, meaning it has eight sides. Picture a big octagon inside a lopsided square. Perched atop this unique shape is a magnificent dome divided into sixteen sections, some flat and some curved. Eight pillars support the dome and create a mesmerizing silhouette against the sky. As you approach the entrance, you'll find a charming courtyard adorned with a small garden and a fountain. It's a tranquil space where you can pause and admire the surroundings before entering.

Upon entering, you'll be greeted by serenity and grandeur. The interior features a two-storey arcade along the north, west, and south sides, adorned with verd antique and red Synnadic marble columns. These columns bear witness to the craftsmanship of artisans from centuries past. Look closely, and you'll notice an elegant inscription in twelve Greek hexameters dedicated to Emperor Justinian, his wife Theodora, and Saint Sergius, the patron saint of Roman soldiers. The interior's intricate details and historical significance make it a captivating space to explore.

Stories and Legends about Little Hagia Sophia

While not as rich in legends as its grand counterpart, the Hagia Sophia, the Little Hagia Sophia holds its share of intriguing tales.

One captivating legend revolves around Emperor Justinian, who, before ascending to the throne, faced a grave accusation of treason against his uncle, Emperor Justin I. Facing imminent death, the intervention of Saints Sergius and Bacchus purportedly saved Justinian. These saints are said to have appeared to Justin I in a dream, advocating for Justinian's innocence. In gratitude for his salvation, Justinian vowed to erect a church to honour the saints. Many believe the Little Hagia Sophia is a testament to this sacred promise.

Another fascinating tale surrounds the architectural significance of the Little Hagia Sophia. It's said to have served as a testing ground for innovative techniques that would later find their perfection in constructing the grand Hagia Sophia. While not a supernatural tale, this legend highlights the spirit of innovation and experimentation that defined Byzantine architecture.

Like many ancient structures steeped in history, whispers persist of hidden treasures concealed within the walls of the Little Hagia Sophia. Some speculate that these riches were secreted away during the tumultuous period of the Ottoman Conquest. While the notion of hidden treasure adds a sense of mystery to the site, its existence remains uncertain.

As with all legends, these stories offer a blend of truth and imagination, providing insights into the beliefs and aspirations surrounding the Little Hagia Sophia throughout the ages.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the visiting hours of Little Hagia Sophia Mosque?

The mosque is open from 10 AM - 6 PM every day, but is closed to visitors during prayer times.

Is there an entrance fee to the Little Hagia Sophia Mosque?

There is no entrance fee for the Little Hagia Sophia Mosque, but donations are welcome.

Are there any dress requirements when visiting the Little Hagia Sophia Mosque?

Modest attire is required for both men and women, ensure shoulders and knees are covered. Women should cover their heads before entering.

What's Worth Seeing in Little Hagia Sophia Mosque?

Visitors can discover the simplicity of the exterior of the building and carvings, historical inscriptions and calm courtyard of the interior.

What are the most important rules of the Little Hagia Sophia mosque?

Please respect the religious significance and atmosphere of the mosque. Don't forget to take off your shoes before entering. Keep noise levels low and avoid disruptive behaviour.

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