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Little Hagia Sophia (TurkishKüçuk Ayasofya Camii), formerly the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Greek: Eκκλησία τῶν Άγίων Σεργίου καί Βάκχου ὲν τοῖς Ὸρμίσδου), is a former Eastern Orthodox church dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople, later converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire.

This Byzantine building with a central dome plan was erected in the 6th century and was a model for the Hagia Sophia, the main church of the Byzantine Empire. It is one of the most important early Byzantine buildings in Istanbul.The building stands in Istanbul, in the district of Fatih and in the neighborhood of Kumkapi, at a short distance from the Marmara Sea, near the ruins of the Great Palace and to the south of the Hippodrome. It is now separated from the sea by theSirkeci-Halkalı suburban railway line and the coastal road.Location[edit]History[edit]Byzantine period

Plan of the building

A particular of the Colonnade

According to later legend, during the reign of Justin I, his nephew Justinian had been accused of plotting against the throne and was sentenced to death. However, in a dream, the saints Sergius and Bacchus appeared before Justin and vouched for Justinian’s innocence. He was freed and restored to his title of Caesar, and in gratitude vowed that he would dedicate a church to the saints once he became emperor. The construction of this Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, between 527 and 536 AD (only a short time before the erection of the Hagia Sophia between 532 and 537), was one of the first acts of the reign of Justinian I.[1]

It lay at the border between the First and Τhird Regio of the City.[2] The location that was chosen for the new church was an irregular area between the Palace of Hormisdas (the house of Justinian before his accession to the throne) and the Church of the Saints Peter and Paul. Back then, the two churches shared the same narthexatrium and propylaea. The new church became the center of the complex, and part still survives today, towards the south of the northern wall of one of the two other edifices. The church was one of the most important religious structures in Constantinople. Shortly after the building of the church amonastery bearing the same name was built near the edifice.

Due to its strong external resemblance to the Hagia Sophia, it is believed that the building had been designed by the same architects, namely Isidorus of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, and that its erection was a kind of “dress rehearsal” for that of the largest church of the Byzantine Empire. However, in terms of architectural details, the building is quite different in design from the Hagia Sophia and the notion that it was but a small-scale version has largely been discredited. [1]

During the years 536 and 537, the Palace of Hormisdas became a Monophysite monastery, where followers of that sect, coming from the eastern regions of the Empire and escaping the persecutions against them, found protection by Empress Theodora[3]

In year 551 Pope Vigilius, who some years before had been summoned to Constantinople by Justinian, found refuge in the church from the soldiers of the Emperor who wanted to capture him, and this attempt caused riots. [3] During the Iconoclastic period the monastery became one of the centers of this movement in the City.

Ottoman period

20101222 Kucuk Ayasofya Mosque Istanbul Turkey.ogv

22 December 2010: Muslim prayers in the mosque.

After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the church remained untouched until the reign of Bayezid II. Then (between 1506 and 1513) it was transformed into a mosque by Hüseyin Ağa, the chief of the Aghas, (Black Eunuchs) who were the custodians of the Bab-ı-Saadet (literally The Gate of Felicity in Ottoman Turkish) in the Sultan‘s residence, the Topkapı Palace. At that time the portico and madrasah were added to the building. [4]

In 1740 the Grand Vizier Hacı Ahmet Paşa restored the mosque and built the Şadırvan (fountain). Damage caused by the earthquakes of 1648 and 1763 were repaired in 1831 under the reign of Sultan Mahmud II. In 1762 the minaret was first built. It was demolished in 1940 and built again in 1956. [4]

The pace of decay of the building, which already suffered because of humidity and earthquakes through the centuries, accelerated after the construction of the railroad. The laying down of the railroad caused parts of St. Peter and Paul to be demolished to the south of the building. Other damage was caused by the building’s use as housing for the refugees during the Balkan Wars[4]

Due to the increasing threats to the building’s static integrity, it was added some years ago to the UNESCO watch list of endangered monuments. The World Monuments Fund added it to its Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in 2002, 2004, and 2006. After an extensive restoration which lasted several years and ended in September 2006, it has been opened again to the public and for worship.



The exterior masonry of the structure adopts the usual technique of that period in Constantinople, which uses bricks sunk in thick beds of mortar. The walls are reinforced by chains made of small stone blocks.

The building, the central plan of which was consciously repeated in the basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna and served as a model for the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan in the construction of the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, has the shape of an octagon inscribed in an irregular quadrilateral. It is surmounted by a beautiful umbrella dome in sixteen compartments with eight flat sections alternating with eight concave ones, standing on eight polygonal pillars.

The narthex lies on the west side, opposed to an antechoir.[5] Many effects in the building were later used in Hagia Sophia: the exedrae expand the central nave on diagonal axes, colorful columns screen the ambulatories from the nave, and light and shadow contrast deeply on the sculpture of capitals and entablature.[6]

In front of the building there is a portico (which replaced the atrium) and a court (both added during the Ottoman period), with a small garden, a fountain for the ablutions and several small shops.


Inside the edifice there is a beautiful two-storey colonnade which runs along the north, west and south sides, and bears an elegant inscription in twelve Greek hexameters dedicated to the Emperor Justinian, his wife, Theodora, and Saint Sergius, the patron-saint of the soldiers of the Roman army. For some unknown reason, Saint Bacchus is not mentioned. The columns are alternately of verd antique and red Synnada marble; the lower storey has 16, while the upper has 18. Many of the column capitals still bear the monograms of Justinian and Theodora. [7]

  • The Apse of the former Church with the Mihrab. The Minbar is seen in the foreground.

  • Colonnades.

  • Dome.

  • Interior north-west.

Nothing remains of the original interior decoration of the church, which contemporary chroniclers describe as being covered in mosaics with walls of variegated marble. During the Ottoman conversion into a mosque, the windows and entrance were modified, floor level raised, and interior walls plastered.[6]


North of the edifice there is a small Muslim cemetery with the türbe of Hüseyin Ağa, the founder of the mosque.

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Cukurcuma is a formerly neglected neighbourhood which has recently been swept up in Cihangir’s breakneck gentrification. In some ways, Cukurcuma 49, a split-level former workshop of bare brick, glass and wood, seems to be the inevitable result of the new aesthetic, yet somehow it retains its own charm. Perhaps it’s the thin-crust pizzas, made from fresh Turkish ingredients, or perhaps it’s because it serves its own wine, bottled especially on the small Aegean island of Bozcaada. Either way, attention to detail triumphs over pretension.
• Turnacibaşi sokak 49/A, Cihangir, +90 212 249 0048

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Other than the numerous hotel bars, it’s very hard to find a decent drink in the old city, but for those desperate not to leave the vicinity of Sultanahmet there are a few options. The Sultan Pub is a fun, if slightly garish, American-style bar spread over three floors, serving hamburgers and alcoholic drinks within sight of the Aya Sofya. The pavement seating is always lively but the roof terrace affords the best views over the Hippodrome.
• Divanyolu Caddesi 2, Sultanahmet, +90 212 528 1719, sultanpub.com.tr

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Built in 1881, the Büyük Londra (or Grande Hotel de Londres) is an achingly nostalgic piece of Beyoğlu’s past. It clearly intends to invoke the neighbourhood’s bohemian heyday, but the dowdy furnishings and talking parrot in the ground-floor bar take you back to a more recent time, before foreign mores and local money made Istanbul cool. This is fin de siècle Ottomania seen through the prism of the 1980s, and rarely crowded. The rooftop bar is slightly less olde worlde and looks out over the Golden Horn.
• Mesrutiyet Caddesi 53, Beyoğlu, + 90 212 245 0670, londrahotel.net



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Cafe Smyrna, a former antique shop, embodies leafy, literary Cihangir’s laid-back, old-fashioned style: tables are shaded from the street by plants and awnings, and the bar is a jumble of furniture and standing lamps. Beloved of writers, thespians and the neighbourhood’s foreign journalists and expats, Smyrna’s outdoor tables, under the plane trees that line the streets, are a lovely place to while away an evening, drink in hand.
• Akarsu Caddesi 29, Cihangir, +90 212 244 2466

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Susam Sokak (Sesame Street) is one of Istanbul’s most charming nooks, in the heart of the leafy, literary Cihangir neighbourhood, and this effortlessly friendly local cafe, which buzzes on weekend evenings, is a destination in itself. A mixed bunch of regulars – from local hipsters to foreign newspaper hacks – people the bar, sucking down good cocktails, such as its famous Egeli Mojito (Aegean Mojito), on mismatched furniture in the sitting room-like interior. Most, however, come to soak up the atmosphere on the cafe’s street-side terrace.
• Susam Sokak 11, Cihangir, +90 212 251 5995


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Urban is a fantastic bar-cum-cafe tucked away in a sidestreet between the Galatasaray Lisesi (high school) and Galatasaray hamam. In summer, tables spill out onto the street, covered by a çarşaf (a sun shade made of trellised vines and ivy) and are thronging with Beyoğlu’s boho set, sipping on ice-cold Efes Pilsen. A rare patch of calm in the beating heart of Istanbul, it livens up as the sun sets. Winter brings people into the cosy, old-fashioned, faintly Parisian interior, with a mezzanine and bar – the perfect place to curl up with a book and while away the hours with a beer.
• Istiklal Caddesi, Kartal Sokak 6, +90 212 252 1325, urbanbeyoglu.com

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A restaurant by day, at night Münferit becomes one of Istanbul’s chicest bars. It takes its design cues from the 1940s, with wooden panelling, tiled floors and mirrored walls – courtesy of local interior design superstars Autobahn. On balmy evenings, locals cluster around the tables in the discreet, private garden, just off the street, before repairing to the bar to dance until dawn to sets that range from old-school funk and soul to ambient techno and house. And, as the night wears on, Ferit the owner delivers round after round of free shots.
• Firuzaga Mahallesi, Yeni Carşi Caddesi 19, Beyoğlu, +90 212 252 5067,munferit.com.tr

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3.jpgThe tall Ottoman buildings that line the streets of Beyoğlu have a tendency to block out the city’s fantastic natural beauty. Climbing to Litera, the bar on the fifth floor of the Goethe Institute, however, lays the old city, the Asian side and the Bosphorus at your feet – glass walls and high tables with stools ensure that not an inch is obscured. Such views are all too rare and well worth rooting out. The institute below, meanwhile, offers one of the most varied cultural programmes in Istanbul, from theatre to photography and classical music.
• Litera Bar, Goethe-Institut Istanbul, Yeniçarşi Caddesi 32, Beyoğlu, +90 212 249 2009, goethe.de/istanbulliterarestaurant.com


Yeni Çarşı Cad.No.32
Galatasaray Lisesinden Cezayir sokağına inerken sağda Galatasaray garajından sonra Kültür evi binası, aynı zamanda Alman Kültür Merkezi olarakta bilinir.
Telefon: +90 212 292 89 47-50
Faks: +90 212 244 97 25

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Mausoleum  shows finest examples of İznik tiles at the height of their technical achievements. Including the infamous Coral red (mercan kırmızısı) which surfaced for 50 years and then lost.


This mausoleum was built by architect Davud Ağa in 1599. Featuring a hexagonal ground plan and marble exterior, the mausoleum has a portico in the foreground which bears Kelime-i Tevhid (Islamic testimony of God’s unity) in kufic calligraphy on the center of its dome. Despite the unadorned exterior, the mausoleum is opulent with the finest examples of XVI century coral İznik tiles and painted decorations. The entrance door made of ebony and encrusted in mother-of-pearl bears the signature of its artist; architect Dalgiç Ahmed Ağa, master craftsman of mother-of-pearl.

Sultan Murad III, his wife Safiye Sultan, and his sons and daughters are buried here.