Hagia Sophia Mosque (Küçük
Ayasofya Camii), a 10-minute
walk downhill southwest from the
(Blue) Mosque (map), was
built in the 530s as the Church
of Saints Sergius and Bacchus by
the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and
his wife Theodora.
Being of the same architectural period,
and with a broad dome, it looked like
a study for Justinian's great Church
of Hagia Sophia, hence
its name, which it seems to have taken
when it was converted to a mosque around
the year 1500.
Extensive restoration work—interior,
exterior and structural—was
completed in November 2007 so the
sense of noble desuetude that possessed
it for so many decades is gone.
Both exterior and interior look virtually
brand-new, with smooth
plaster and fresh paint. The Ottoman-style
is pleasant for a mosque, but bears
no resemblance to what the building
looked like in Byzantine times
gold mosaics gilmmered
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
To find the mosque, walk behind the
Blue Mosque to
its east side, through the Arasta
Bazaar, and continue straight
down the hill on Küçük
Ayasofya Camii Sokak (map),
which goes right to the mosque. You'll
see its characteristic flattish
at the base of the hill.
Camii is a working mosque,
so there is no admission fee (though
donations are accepted), and the
of etiquette for visiting mosques apply.
Hagia Sophia Mosque.
Below, Byzantine columns,
capitals and Greek