Brief history,

"The Hagia Sophia enjoyed the status as the largest cathedral in the world for almost a thousand years after it was built, til 1850"
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Popularly known as the strategic place where the 'East' meets the 'West', Istanbul in Turkey, is a historic and fascinating city, which bridges the continents of Europe and Asia. Situated on the west of the Bosporus strait, which is responsible for joining the Black sea and the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul has a diverse history that is packed with tradition and ethnicity of its various conquerors.

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The Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya as it is known in Turkish was actually a patriarchal Basilica that has been considered to be an embodiment of Byzantine architecture and also had the distinction of remaining the largest cathedral in the world until 1520. Built on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, its interiors were richly decorated with artistic mosaics depicting various religious scenes and were supported by massive marble pillars.

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Imperial gallery
One of the remarkable features that the Hagia Sophia boasted of was the magnificent Upper Imperial Gallery with its fantastic mosaics and marble decorations. The central part of the upper gallery was reserved for the Empress and the other women of her court, who could sit there and view the proceedings down below in a discreet manner. As a result it was also known as the Loge of the Empress.
Upper gallery
One of the most striking features of the Hagia Sophia during the Byzantine rule was its magnificent interiors. The entry to the nave was by itself quite a majestic affair, where one was exposed to several descriptive mosaics above the ornamental doors that date back to he 9th century. All the walls and the ceilings of the nave are covered with inlayed marble and mosaics and altogether it brought about a bright and colorful appearance.
One of the greatest surviving architectural wonders of the Byzantine period, the spacious interiors of the Hagia Sophia was decorated artistically with huge marble pillars, priceless mosaics and other coverings. Under Justinian's orders eight Corinthian columns were shipped to Constantinople after being disassembled from Baalbek.

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