Little Hagia Sophia
Little Hagia Sophia (Küçük Ayasofya Mh., Fatih/İstanbul) — The oldest surviving Byzantine monument in Istanbul, Küçük (“Little”) Hagia Sophia was constructed under the emperor Justinian near the southern city walls on the shores of the Sea of Marmara in 527–536 AD.
In 1504, the building was converted into a mosque. In the 1950s, the area in front of the city walls near the building was claimed from the sea and opened to traffic. A railway was later built next to the building. Although the sanctuary was restored in 1996, it was damaged by an earthquake in 1999, resulting in a series of cracks in the central dome that have allowed rainwater to seep in. Restoration work on this site was completed in 2007.
With such worked completed, both this site’s exterior and interior look virtually brand-new, with smooth plaster and fresh paint. The Ottoman-style decoration inside is pleasant for a mosque, but bears no resemblance to what the building looked like in Byzantine times when gold mosaics glimmered in the dome and colored marble glowed on the walls. Some beautiful 6th-century decorative elements remain, however. Note the irregular octagonal floor plan, and the beautiful red- and green-marble breccia columns topped by intricately-carved Byzantine marble capitals. Above the capitals, a band of marble with Greek letters in relief offers evidence of the building’s first use.
Free Admission. Hours: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm (summer), 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (winter).