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Being the museum today, this is one of the masterpieces of Byzantine architecture. As it was dedicated to the Divine Wisdom,it is known as Hagia Sophia.
The splendor of the interior decoration, the massiveness of its architectural proportions being unusual for a church and the height of its central dome with a diameter of 32 m. has amazed everyone since it was first constructed. Christianity once connected the creation of this bold dome to supernatural powers whereas by merging this observation with existing religious beliefs, Hagia Sophia became a lofty symbol of Medieval Age Mysticism.
The structure today is the third Hagia Sophia which was built by Justinian 1 on top of the ruins of two previous churches after the Nike Revolt of 532. It was constructed by Isidorus from Miletos and Antemius from Tralles. The construction lasted for five years but interior decoration couldn’t be completed until 570’s. The structure was suffered by heavy damages as a result of several earthquakes between 553 and 1894. All the interior frescos were destroyed during the Iconoclastic period (726-842). It was rather neglected during the last years of Byzantine Empire.
Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque following the conquest of Constantinople and   the first thing the Conqueror did was to collect the Byzantine manuscript about Hagia Sophia and to translate them into Turkish. After the conquest, the icon mosaics were preserved for many years by covering the faces. Sultan Selim II showed the great interest in the museum and commissioned the architect Mimar Sinan to restore the mosque. The fountain, primary school, soup kitchen, library, sultan’s lodge and a niche were added during the reign of Mahmud I between 1739-40. Sultan Abdülmecid appointed Swiss Fossati brothers to undertake the most through restoration.
The mosaics were first damaged during 19th century. Foreigners used to chip off pieces as souvenirs while visiting the Museum. The worst harm was caused by the earthquake in 1894.
All the mosaics that are seen today date back to the 9th century while those decorating the outer vestibule and the adjacent warriors’ entrance date back to the 6th century. Hagia Sophia was converted into museum in 1935.
Opening hours 9.30-16.30 daily except Mondays.
Built by Justinian I in 542 to solve Constantinople’s water supply problem which persisted for centuries, the cistern has recently been converted into a museum where concerts are held, especially during summer.
Measuring 140m.x70m., it has 336 columns which stand 8m. high. Most of the columns date back to the antiquity whereas those in the southwest corner were propped up with pieces of a marble monument with Medusa heads dating back to the late- Antique period and were placed underneath as plinths to elevate the trunk.
Opening hours 09.00-17.00 daily except Tuesdays.
There were bazaars which consisted of rows of shops in the Ottoman period. These shops were financing the important structures. One section was converted into a museum with an aim to protect and to exhibit the floor mosaics of the Great Palace which were uncovered during the 1930’s. It is the second largest mosaic museum in Turkey after Antakya Museum. The Byzantine mosaics date back to 5th-6th centuries.
Opening hours 09.30-17.00 daily except Tuesdays.
The works related to Greek, Roman, early Christianity and Byzantine periods are exhibited in this museum. The most important artifacts and collections exhibited are the sarcophagi of the King Sidon necropolis, statues from the Archaic to the Roman period, votive offerings dedicated to the Goddess Kybele discovered in Kyme and Ilgın, relief belonging to the Halicarnassus Mausoleum of votive offerings, statues uncovered in Aphrodisiac, Ephesus and Millets, small bowls and dishes, ceramic figures and jewellery .
Opening hours 09.00-17.00 daily except Mondays.
It is the only 16th century Ottoman palace owned by the state still in existence. It was built before 1520 and was turned into museum in 1983. Named after the Grand Vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent, Ibrahim Pasa, it was the site of ceremonies ,entertainment and receptions for foreign ambassadors. After Ibrahim Pasha was murdered, the Palace was transferred to the imperial treasury and was owned by grand viziers and regional governors. It is the first museum having both Turkish and Islamic art.
Opening hours 09.0-17.0 daily except Mondays.
Historical war materials used in all the battles since the conquest are all on display in this fascinating museum. Ataturk received his military training here between 1899-1905. The Ataturk classroom, Ataturk Hall, has been furnished with the materials from that period.
The Janissary Military Band which was formed in the 14th century performs concerts between 15.00-16.00 on the days when the Museum is open. The Mehter march was sung by the janissaries to rally the soldiers at the battle front. They thus created a new music in Europe and even influenced some of the works of Mozart and Beethoven.
Opening hours 09.00-17.00 daily except Tuesdays.
Constructed as the Church of Chora Monastery, this structure operates as a museum today. Although it was converted into a mosque after the conquest, the mosaics were preserved by covering them with wooden shutters .This monastery is one of the city’s most important Byzantine monuments from 6th century. The building remained in a ruinous state until the 11th century. After Constantinople was regained from the Latinos in 1261, theologian and philosopher Theodorus Metochites had the monastery and the church restored (1316-21) . What makes the Museum so important for Byzantine art are the interior mosaics and the figures on the frescoes in the ‘paracclesion’ section. The art of painting in this Museum reflects the fact that a new approach to art had begun in the Byzantine Empire in parallel to the Renaissance.
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