Hagia Sophia, also known as the “Church of Holy Wisdom”, is located in Istanbul, Turkey. The church now serves as a museum. The building was originally ordered by the first Christian Emperor, Constantine the Great, who is also known as the founder of Constantinople. The Hagia Sophia structure that stands today is very different from the original edifice due to riots, earthquake damage and remodeling. When the original Hagia Sophia was destroyed, it was rebuilt by Theodosius the Great, but subsequently it was burned down in the Nika riots of 532.
The most notable restoration of the Hagia Sophia was done by Abdulmecid II, who was called upon to restore the damaged dome, pillars and exterior. In 1934, the church was turned into the Ayasofya Museum by the Turkish President Kemal Ataturk. The change involved removal of prayer rugs, and some of the calligraphic panels were moved to other mosques. The Hagia Sophia still stands today thanks to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, which has taken the task of preserving the site by cleaning and restoring the great structure.
Hagia Sophia is a great example of Byzantine architecture as it was built with beautiful mosaics, galleries and pillars. Many of its mosaic paintings reflect the Byzantine culture and artistic skills of the past. The church holds great importance in the Muslim, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox worlds.