Little Hagia Sophia - free and beautiful

Only a few people know that there is not only the renowned Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) in Istanbul, but also the Little Hagia Sophia (Küçük Ayasofya Camii). So unfortunately it is often literally overseen by many tourists, even though it is also located in Sultanahmet, only a few minutes downhill from the Hippodrome. And moreover the oldest surviving Byzantine monument in Istanbul.

Little Hagia Sophia (Küçük Ayasofya Camii) - free and beautiful

The Little Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Being older as the big Hagia Sophia and supposedly a miniature version of the Hagia Sophia, the attribute little makes perfectly sense. It was built by the same architects during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. But actually it differs in terms of architecture and therefore mainly the name stuck, making it the Little Hagia Sophia over times until today. 

Nevertheless it is very beautiful and provides an interesting interior design and architecture. Originally build as a church, being the first and largest on in Constantinople, it was called Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus. The legend goes that the church was the first project of Justinian I, as those saints saved him from being executed. After the Ottoman conquest in 1453 tough it was converted to the mosque it still is today. Making it an interesting mixture of Greco-Roman and Islamic art. 

The architecture of Küçük Ayasofya Camii

Dome - Litte Hagia Sophia
The exterior masonry adopts the usual technique of that period in Constantinople, which uses bricks sunk in thick beds of mortar. The walls are reinforced by chains made of small stone blocks. The building, the central plan of which was consciously repeated in the basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna and served as a model for the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan in the construction of the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, has the shape of an octagon inscribed in an irregular quadrilateral. It is surmounted by a beautiful umbrella dome in sixteen compartments with eight flat sections alternating with eight concave ones, standing on eight polygonal pillars.

Interior Little Hagia Sophia
Inside there is a beautiful two-storey colonnade which runs along the north, west and south sides, and bears an elegant inscription in twelve Greek hexameters dedicated to the Emperor Justinian, his wife, Theodora, and Saint Sergius, the patron-saint of the soldiers of the Roman army. The columns are  of verd antique and red marble; the lower storey has 16, while the upper has 18. Once you are inside do not miss out to go upstairs to have a nice overview of the interior and to take a closer look at some beautiful details like the accurately painted colonades. 

Here one can find a vast amount of pictures for the first impression.

Once you enjoyed the Little Hagia Sophia, do not miss out on the Palace of Boukoleon, one of the Byzantine palaces in Constantinople, which is situated close-by. It was probably built by Theodosius II in the 5th century, and the ruins are still quite impressive. 

How to get to the Little Hagia Sophia

The Little Hagia Sophia is situated in the district of Fatih, in the neighborhood of Kumkapı, near the Marmara shore, basically at the bottom of the hill if one walks downhill south of the hippodrome. 


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