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  • The best look at ancient Constantinople is a church-turned-mosque that's been

  • considered among the greatest houses of worship in both the Christian and Muslim

  • worlds:

  • Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of Constantinople.

  • Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the early 6th century on the grandest

  • scale possible, it was later converted into a mosque by the conquering Ottomans.

  • Today

  • it's a museum.

  • Hagia Sophia, which marks the high point of Byzantine architecture

  • is the pinnacle of that society's 6th century glory days.

  • This church was completed in 537,

  • just about when Europe was entering its Dark Ages.

  • For four centuries after that, Christians in Europe looked to Constantinople as the leading

  • city in Christendom

  • and this was its leading church.

  • This clever dome-upon-dome construction was the biggest dome

  • anywhere until the cathedral of Florence was finished during the Renaissance

  • 900 years later.

  • The vast interior gives the impression of a golden weightless shell,

  • gracefully disguising the massive overhead load

  • supported by masterful Byzantine engineering.

  • Forty arched windows shed a soft light on the interior, showing off the church's

  • original marble and glittering mosaics.

  • But the Byzantine Empire collapsed in the 15th century, and Hagia Sophia

  • was turned into a mosque. Christian mosaics were plastered over, and new

  • religious symbols replaced the old.

  • This church was built to face Jerusalem;

  • mosques face Mecca.

  • When Hagia Sophia became a mosque, they couldn't move the church, but they could move

  • the focal point of the praying. Notice how the prayer niche is just

  • a little bit off-center.

  • That's because it faces Mecca.

The best look at ancient Constantinople is a church-turned-mosque that's been

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B1 INT church sophia byzantine mosque dome mecca

Istanbul, Turkey: Hagia Sophia

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