The nearby Aya Sofya (known as Hagia Sofia in Greek and also called the Church of the Divine Wisdom) is another grand architectural gesture, this time from the Byzantine Empire. Regarded as the greatest church in Christendom up until the fall of Constantinople, when it was put back into service as a mosque, the edifice is crammed with fine mosaics and topped by a magnificent dome.

Examining the interior of the church is more a metaphysical than a physical experience. The architecture is such that visitors entering through the main entrance, via the low original steps, experience both a gradual sense of being drawn upwards and a sense of gloomy darkness being dispelled by the inner light of 30 million gold tesserae (mosaic tiles). The two semi-domes that bookend the main dome, the brilliant mosaics of 'Madonna and Child' and 'Christ as Pantocrator', the millions of gilded mosaic tiles and the soaring, brilliant weightlessness of the main dome make Aya Sofya a most memorable place to visit.

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An aerial view (from a tourist book)
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