The Aya Sofia was built in 532. The exterior was painted blood red by Emporor Justinian to warn potential revolutionaries. The dome was originally a lot higher and bigger then what you see today, but an earthquake just 20 years after it’s construction destroyed it. It remained one the most beautiful churches in the world for a thousand years, when Mehmet the Conqueror tacked on a Minaret and converted it into a Mosque. Finally in 1932 Attaturk converted it into a Museum.Unfortunately when we visited (Summer 2002), the interior was undergoing massive restoration and we couldn’t see much of the roof. The size is amazing, but we were underwhelmed by the state that it was in. There’s a lot of damage here, and only a hint at the former beauty. Be sure to check out the sweating pillar. It is rumoured that if you stick your finger (and turn it around) and feel water, you will be healed. Uh huh. 🙂
There is a gallery on the second floor, but it’s expensive to get in ($10) and we passed.