The Hagia Sophia




ancient mosque good/better/the best
replace century great/greater/greatest
among worship build/built/built
church emperor Byzantine (2)
world possible considered
society scale (3) Dark Age
mark point (3) high point
mosaic pinnacle architecture
glory convert complete
enter conquer look to (2)
dome massive lead/led/led
finish show off construction
vast disguise Renaissance
golden move (2) give/gave/given
symbol shell (2) impression
clever graceful weightless
load original support (2)
arch shed (2) cathedral
plaster soft (2) marble (2)
glitter high (3) master (3)
niche interior impression
focal face (2) focal point
pray turn (3) off center






The best look at ancient Constantinople is a church-turned-mosque that’s been considered among the greatest houses of worship in both the Christian and Muslim worlds: Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of Constantinople.

Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the early 6th century on the grandest scale possible, it was later converted into a mosque by the conquering Ottomans.

Today it’s a museum.

Hagia Sophia, which marks the high point of Byzantine architecture is the pinnacle of that society’s 6th century glory days.

This church was completed in 537, just about when Europe was entering its Dark Ages. For four centuries after that, Christians in Europe looked to Constantinople as the leading city in Christendom and this was its leading church.

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This clever dome-upon-dome construction was the biggest dome anywhere until the cathedral of Florence was finished during the Renaissance 900 years later.

The vast interior gives the impression of a golden weightless shell, gracefully disguising the massive overhead load supported by masterful Byzantine engineering.

Forty arched windows shed a soft light on the interior, showing off the church’s original marble and glittering mosaics.

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But the Byzantine Empire collapsed in the 15th century, and Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque. Christian mosaics were plastered over, and new religious symbols replaced the old.

This church was built to face Jerusalem; mosques face Mecca. When Hagia Sophia became a mosque, they couldn’t move the church, but they could move the focal point of the praying. Notice how the prayer niche is just a little bit off-center. That’s because it faces Mecca.

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Turkey. Is the Hagia Sophia a church, mosque, both, neither, or it has changed in its history?

Greece. Did the Ottoman Turks build the Aya Sophia?

Italy. Is the building new or old? Was it built in modern times, the Victorian Era, Age of Enlightenment, Renaissance, Middle Ages, Dark Ages or Ancient Times?

Georgia. Constantinople and Istanbul are two different places. Is this right or wrong? What’s the difference between Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul?

Armenia. Is the Hagia Sophia small, medium-sized, large or very big (huge)? Does it have a pointed roof or top?

Syria, Lebanon. The inside of the Aya Sophia is completely dark. Is this correct or incorrect?

Azerbaijan. Are the art and decorations in the Aya Sophia Christian, Muslim or both? What art and decorations are featured inside?

Israel, Palestine. I have visited the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. Yes or no? Have your friends been there?

Iran, Persia. What are some large, beautiful or historic churches, cathedrals or temples in your town, city or country?

Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia. What other churches or temples have your seen or visited?

Iraq, Jordan. Do you have a favorite church or temple or other building?

Egypt. What might happen in the future?

Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes. Should people build new, modern churches and temples, or reconstruct ancient and Medieval churches and temples, or both?

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