LITTLE HOLINESS (KÜÇÜK AYASOFYA CAMII)
Petit Futé's opinion on LITTLE HOLINESS (KÜÇÜK AYASOFYA CAMII)
More discreet than its cousin and simple in appearance, it is nevertheless magnificent and retains an authentic charm.
It was built as a church between 527 and 536 on Justinian's initiative and in honour of Saints Serge and Bacchus, patron saints of the Christian centurions of the Roman army. It is considered to be the prefiguration of the neighbouring large basilica, hence its Turkish name of Little Saint Sophia. These two saints are especially popular among Eastern Christians. Justinian dedicates on the same site another church which no longer exists today and which was dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, preferred by Western Christians. The goal is to restore the integrity of the Roman Empire on a spiritual level. It was at the time of Beyazıt II that the church was transformed into a mosque by Hüseyin Ağa, leader of the black eunuchs of the harem whose mausoleum was built north of the apse.
Exterior. The exterior masonry of the structure follows the technique usual in Constantinople during this period, which uses bricks embedded in thick beds of mortar. The walls are reinforced with chains made of small blocks of stone. Many effects in the building were then used in Saint Sophia: the exedras extend the central nave on diagonal axes, coloured columns hide the ambulances of the nave, and the light and shadow contrast deeply on the sculpture of the capitals and entablatures. In front of the building is a portico and a courtyard with a small garden, a fountain for ablutions and several small shops. The old medersa houses craftsmen and a small tea room where you can relax.
Inside. Inside the building is a beautiful two-storey colonnade that runs along the north, west and south sides and bears an elegant inscription in twelve Greek hexameters dedicated to Emperor Justinian, his wife Theodora and Saint Sergius, the patron saint of the Roman army soldiers. For some unknown reason, St. Bacchus is not mentioned. Built on an irregular octagonal plan, it is covered by a dome rising to 19 m in height and resting on 8 polygonal pillars as well as 34 marble columns, alternately green and red in colour, arranged between the pillars. During the Ottoman conversion to a mosque, the windows and entrance were modified, the ground level was raised and the interior walls were plastered. To the north of the building is a small Muslim cemetery with the tomb of Hüseyin Ağa, the founder of the mosque. One of our favorite tours.
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