Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
One of the largest churches in the world - Hagia Sophia is in top four - it towers in the ancient district of Sultanahmet... At the moment of its construction Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia in Turkish) has been the biggest temple of the world. Built as the main temple of Constantinople and the whole Byzantium, the temple was supposed to symbolize the luxury and power of the empire, blessed by the God. And it worked! The church astonishes with its sizes and the splendor of its interior decoration. Granitic and marble columns, wall paintings of IX and XII centuries, abundance of gold and rarities... You can observe big wooden gates, edged with metal right at the entrance of the temple, the immense size of which can be understood only from the inside. These are the so-called royal gates – only the emperor of Byzantium had the right to enter them. On the marble floor of the church near these gates there are some dents, left by the guards that consisted of tall Scandinavian mercenaries – the Vikings... Several giant floors of the church make up a single space, and the local acoustics allows to hear whisper, standing in the different corners of the temple. When this giant temple was being built, they used ground instead of scaffolding. It raised higher and higher, and the builders were working standing on that ground. When the works were over, the temple was almost buried in the ground. The ground was taken out (almost 50 tons) and the temple started shining over Constantinople, being the center of the city for more than ten centuries... After the decline of Constantinople a mosque was opened in the temple. This is why there are also a lot of displays of Islamic culture of the Ottoman Empire period. Any person visiting the Hagia Sophia museum can admire these displays, as well as the Greek wall paintings, mosaic representing angels, God, emperors and the members of their families.