Istanbul is a city that connects two continents and hosts many different empires. Every civilization that lived in the city made its mark and today Istanbul bears the traces of its culture. There are so many historical monuments to visit in this city which has been home to many different religions and cultures for centuries. It has many beautiful and magnificent mosques, churches and synagogues, significant for their architectural and cultural value. Christianity dates back to the 4th century in Istanbul. Here are the top places of worship in Istanbul.
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is in first place on the top places of worship in Istanbul list as it’s one of the most important monuments in the history of world architecture. It is an important place in art and history for its architecture, grandeur, size and functionality. Hagia Sophia is the largest church built by the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul and was built three times in the same place.
Although no remains of the first church are found today, the Megale Ekklesia-stamped bricks found in the museum store are thought to belong to the original structure. The steps of the Propylon (monumental entrance door), column bases and lamb reliefs representing the Twelve Apostles, and frieze fragments belonged to the second incarnation of Hagia Sophia. In addition, other architectural pieces belonging to the monumental entrance can be seen in the garden to the west. The present Hagia Sophia was built for Emperor Justinian (527-565) by two important architects of the time, Isidoros of Miletus and Anthemios of Tralles. Hagia Sophia remained a church for 916 years and was converted into a mosque in 1453 when Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Istanbul. Immediately after the conquest, the building was strengthened and preserved and continued as a mosque throughout the Ottoman Period.
In 1935, upon the order of Atatürk and the decision of the Council of Ministers, Hagia Sophia opened its doors as a museum.
Hagia Sophia became a mosque again in 2020 with the Presidential decree. On 24th of July, 2020, Friday prayers were performed again after 86 years. Visitors wish to see the Hagia Sophia can enter without an entrance fee from now on. Please keep in mind that there are five prayer times for a day, you might want to visit the Hagia Sophia besides these times. Don’t forget that know it’s a mosque again women and men have to wear according to Islamic rules. For men and women, legs and arms need to be covered, no shorts or skirts above the ankle. Also, your clothes should not be tight fitting. And women have to cover their heads.
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2. Blue Mosque
Sultanahmet Camii, known as Blue Mosque because of the colour of the eye-catching patterns adorning its interior walls, is cited as one of the most successful examples of Turkish Islamic architecture. After its completion, Blue Mosque, which was subjected to criticism from various sections, was known as the first and only 6 minaret mosque within the Ottoman borders.
If you enter the Blue Mosque to worship, there is no fee. The mosque can be visited at any time of the day but visits are restricted during prayer hours on Fridays because the congregation is in worship. For tourists, there is an entrance fee of 20 Turkish lira. Blue Mosque is a large building and includes social and cultural areas such as the Grand Bazaar, Turkish bath, soup kitchen, hospital, schools and caravanserai. There is also the tomb of Sultan Ahmet.
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3. Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque is another mosque that makes it onto the top places of worship in Istanbul list. Built for Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in 1550 by Architect Sinan, this historic building is defined by Sinan as a mosque that will not be destroyed until the Doomsday. It has many architectural features including four minarets. The magnificence exhibited in its architecture reflects the magnificence of the Ottoman Empire. The mosque, which has won the admiration of its visitors’ thanks to its interior details, contains the tombs of Kanuni and his wife Hürrem Sultan, who made their names during the most glorious period of the Ottoman Empire. The mosque is open to visitors between 09.00-18.00 every day throughout the year. Guests who wish to visit Suleymaniya should not enter the prayer areas while the congregation are praying and all visitors should adhere to the Islamic dress code.
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4. The Fener Greek Patriarchate
Fener Greek Patriarchate is one of the top places of worship in Istanbul that is important for Christians. The Fener Greek Patriarchate, or the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, is located in the Fener district of Istanbul. The building, known as the Fener Greek Patriarchate, as well as the Hagia Yorgi Church, is the centre of the Orthodox world, and the Fener district is considered the spiritual capital of the Orthodox. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, the archbishopric of the Orthodox church, was built in the 4th century AD. It is a set of structures founded by Saint Andrea, one of Jesus’ disciples. The patriarchate, which includes the office of the Patriarch, the Hagia Yorgi Church, the library and other official departments, attracts the attention of visitors due to its lavish workmanship. The church is open to the public every day from 08:30 to 16:00, except for during the liturgy which is held on Sundays from 09:15 to 12:20. It’s free to visit.
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5. Neve Shalom Synagogue
The synagogue is one of the top places of worship in Istanbul for Jews. Synagogues bearing this meaningful name, which means an oasis of peace, are also found in the early periods of Istanbul history. The synagogue also has a museum inside. The museum, located in the Neve Shalom Synagogue, Galata is very interesting; the history of Turkish Jews, which began with the migration of Sephardic Jews, is well explained with pictures and diagrams. This is a very useful museum to get to know the culture of the Jews living in Turkey. The synagogue is open from Sunday to Thursday between 10:00 – 17:00 and on Fridays between 10:00 – 13:00. The last entrance to the museum is half an hour before closing time. The museum is closed on Saturday Sabbath, national and religious holidays.
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