Tourism in İstanbul is recovering as the ticket lines at Hagia Sophia Museum and are visibly longer these days stretching all the way to Sultanahmet Square. Considered the eighth wonder of the world, the total number of visitors from 2007-2018 surpassed 31 million.
The number of visitors last year reached almost three million according to figures shared by the museum. The all-time record for most visitors still belongs to the year 2014, when 3.5 million people visited the museum. After a slump in the past few years in attendance, visitor numbers this year are expected to top three million.
History of the Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia, the biggest church constructed by the East Roman Empire in Istanbul, has been constructed three times in the same location. When it was first built, it was named Megale Ekklesia (Big Church); however, after the fifth century, it was referred to as the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). The church was the place in which rulers were crowned, and it was also the biggest operational cathedral in the city throughout the Byzantine period.
The current structure was constructed by Isidoros (Milet) and Anthemios (Tralles), who were renowned architects of their time, by Emperor Justinianos’s (527-565) orders. Information from historian Prokopios states that the construction that began on February 23, 532, was completed in a short period of five years and the church was opened to worship with a ceremony on December 27, 537. Resources show that on the opening day of the Hagia Sophia, Emperor Justinianos entered the temple and said, “My Lord, thank you for giving me chance to create such a worshipping place,” and followed with the words “Süleyman, I beat you,” referring to Süleyman’s temple in Jerusalem.
Following Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s (1451-1481) conquer in 1453, Hagia Sophia was renovated into a mosque. The structure was fortified and was well protected after this period, and remained as a mosque. Additional supporting pillars were installed during the East Roman and Ottoman periods as a result of the damage that the structure experienced due to earthquakes in the region. The minarets designed and implemented by Mimar Sinan have also served to this purpose.