Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) was built in the 6th century between (532–537 AD). Commissioned by Byzantine Emperor Justinian the First, it is generally considered to be the most important example of Byzantine architecture. Consecrated as a church in 537, converted to a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 and declared a museum by Atatürk in 1935, Hagia Sophia was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
Hagia Sophia is not the first church to be located on the site. The original church, commissioned by the Emperor Constantius in 360 AD, was burned to the ground in 404 AD. In 415 AD, a second church was commissioned for the site by the Emperor Theodosius II. During the Nika revolt against Emperor Justinian in 532 AD, the second church suffered a similar fate when it was also destroyed. Lasting over a week, the Nika riots were the most violent in the city’s history. Nearly half Constantinople was burned and thousands of people were killed.
The destruction of the second church allowed Justinian to commission a grand church. When built, the scale of the Hagia Sophia exceeded that of any domed building in the world. The architectural marvel featured lavish decoration including gold mosaics and rare marble. Throughout its history, the church has endured earthquakes, a conversion to Islamic usage and finally its conversion to a museum.
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