The Hagia Sophia is a 6th century masterpiece in Istanbul, Turkey. Originally constructed as a church, the structure was later turned into a mosque and then made into a museum. Not many who visit the city of Istanbul leave without seeing the Hagia Sophia.
Hagia Sophia was used as a church for more than 916 years. However, following the capture of Istanbul by Sultan Mehmed, the building was turned into mosque. It was utilized as the mosque for over 482 years. Within these years the sultans added a number of things to the Hagia Sophia. During the time of Sultan Bayezid, he gave the mosque a new look by replacing the old minaret with the new one. Non-Muslim features were removed from the building, including the altar, bells and religious paintings. Additionally, many of the mosaics were covered up with plaster.
In the 16th century, Suleiman imported two candles from Hungary. He ordered the candles to be put on the sides of the mihrab. A mihrab is a semicircular portion of a wall that points the faithful toward the Kaaba in Mecca. In the late 16th century during the time of Selim II, the popular architect Sinan strengthened the structure of the mosque by putting structural supports on the exterior. He also constructed two minarets.
The Hagia Sophia was a mosque up until 1931. At this time it was closed to the public for four years and later reopened as a museum under the direction of the Republic of Turkey.