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Hagia Sophia Museum

Located 3.8 km from Zorlu Grand Hotel, the Hagia Sophia Museum was originally built as the Church of Saint Sophia (Church of the Divine Wisdom) during the reign of Manuel I Komnenos (1238-1263). A bell tower dated to 1427 by the British traveler and historian George Finlay, stands at the western side of the church.

Following the Sultan Mehmed II’s conquest of Trabzon in 1461 the church was converted into a mosque at which time it also became a waqf endowment. For hundreds of years Saint Sophia has attracted the attention of travelers and historians visiting Trabzon. The peripatetic Evliya Çelebi described it 1638 as did Pitton Tournefort (1701), William John Hamilton (1836), Charles Texier (1864), Trabzon Şakir Şevket (1878), and Henry Finnis Blosse Lynch (1893) to mention but a few. In 1868 the mosque, by then quite dilapidated, underwent a substantial restoration as a result of the efforts of Bursalı Rıza Efendi.

During the first world war, the building did service first as a military depot and then as a hospital, eventually becoming a mosque again. It underwent a major restoration in 1958-1962 in a project undertaken jointly by the General Directorate of Foundations and Edinburgh University. Closed for a time, it reopened as a museum in 1964. Most of the frescoes decorating Saint Sophia deal with New Testament themes. The main dome is dominated by a depiction of Christ Pantocrator (Christ Almighty). Surrounding the image is a band of inscriptions and below that is a frieze of angels. The spaces between the windows contain depictions of the Twelve Apostles while the dome’s pendentive supports are decorated with scenes from the life of Jesus such as the Nativity, the Baptism, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. Circular medallions on the rear arches of the building contain portraits. The vaults contain more New Testament scenes.