The first church was built on the site of a pagan temple and was inaugurated by Constantius II in the year 360AD. It was a wooden roofed basilica with a nave and either two or four aisles. The church was burnt to the ground in 404 during riots.
Theodosius II Church
Theodosius II ordered that the church be rebuilt in 405, it is unknown if this church was built to the same design as the church it replaced. It did contain elements of architecture dating from the Byzantine period. This church was completely destroyed in January 532 during the Nika Revolt. Today, some surviving blocks of marble can be seen in the courtyard of the museum.
A short time after suppressing the riots, Justinian the Great began the rebuild of the destroyed building, ordering what could be saved to be reused. Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus were commissioned to rebuild the new church. It would stand on the same location as its predecessor with the order that it would be a greater construction than what it was replacing. They were called ‘mechanikoi’ or masters of the science of mechanics. They are not known for building anything before this creation yet they were responsible for one of the world’s greatest monuments. Materials were brought from Syria and Egypt, and over 10,000 people worked on the project. Apart from the mosaics it was completed in less than 5 years. Less than 20 years later the church was seriously damaged by a series of earthquakes which brought down the dome. Isodorus the Younger, the nephew of Isidore of Miletus was given the task of rebuilding the church. He made the dome 6.25m higher and after it officially opened in 562 imperial ceremonies were held there. From 726, until the mid 14th century the church was fought over by Christians and followers of Islam. Together with earthquakes there were several rebuilds during the centuries.
Hagia Sophia Mosque
In 1453, Mehmet II, The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople after a siege that lasted 54 days. The church was converted into a mosque. Minarets and two mausoleums were added over the centuries that followed.
Hagia Sophia Museum
Prior to 1934 if any western visitors wanted to attend Hagia Sophia they had to obtain a permit from the sultan. The uncovering of the mosaics had begun in 1931, carpets were replaced by the original marble and the museum opened on the 1st of February 1935.