Istanbul (Turkey). This is probably the most “symbolic” and characteristic part of Hagia Sophia, which was built as an orthodox basilica, then converted into a mosque and today is a very popular museum in Istanbul.
But why this corner is so symbolic? The answer is simple but – in my opinion – extremely logic: it shows at the same time the apse (where there was the Hagia Sophia Basilica’s altar) and the mosque’s mihrab, the semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the “qibla”, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. The mihrab was added when Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque in 1453, after the conquest of Istanbul with Mohammed II.
Visiting Hagia Sophia is like hopping on a time machine: there are so many testaments of the building’s history, that the visitor bears the risk that being mesmerised by the wonderful mosaics and the magnificence of the interior, will not notice them. When I accompany someone at Hagia Sophia, this is the first place where I go: here there is the essence of a place that is unique not only for its beauty, but also for its history.