Hagia Sophia - pronounced Aya Sofia - is, literally, the archetypal mosque. Its dome is the precursor of every domed mosque throughout the world.
But before it was a mosque, it was a Byzantine cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy (Hagia) Wisdom (Sophia). When the Christians were swept away by the Turks, their cathedral was turned into a mosque, and the great Moslem architect Sinan, and others, so admired its perfection that they carried its form throughout the Ottoman Empire; and their successors carried it into the design of mosques across the globe.
It is a reminder of how unpredictable cultural flow can be. The Byzantines kept the Roman Empire alive for a thousand years longer than the Roman Empire of the West. But, by the end, they were so attenuated that their influence had shrunk to the point where we do not even recognise their achievement. In the West, meanwhile, the Church of Rome ran rampant, and gave us the archetypes of ecclesiastical art, of gothic pointed arch (like Westminster Abbey) and baroque full dome (like St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s Cathedral in London) which we now think of as church.
Meanwhile, Hagia Sophia, that grand old lady, who has seen so much since she was built in her present form in 532AD, now stands as a museum, in which worship in any religious tradition is prohibited.
P1020489 on Flickr.