The Haghia Sophia or Aya Sofya in Turkish has been in its present form for 1600 years. There have been churches on this site since 346. It took only five years to build this immense structure and it was completed in 537 under Emporer Justinian I. This was almost continuously the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople until 1453 (if the Vatican is the physical headquarters of the Catholic Church this would be the equivalent for Orthodox Christians). Then it became the first imperial mosque after the Ottomans took Constantinople and the city became Istanbul. It served as a mosque for 500 more years until in 1931 it became secularized and in 1935 it was transformed into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The building is huge and the height of the majestic Byzantine domes are exaggerated by the low hanging lighting. Above, shafts of golden light fills the hall. This is one of the few places in the world where you will see Christian iconography side by side with Islamic calligraphy and patterns. Most notable are the medallions and pendant chandeliers that were added in the mid nineteenth century. When it became a museum, mosaics and frescos were revealed under plaster from around the main dome and uncovered interesting depictions of feathered angels.