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The Hagia Sophia, which means ‘Church of Holy Wisdom’, proudly stands on a hill in Istanbul’s old city centre. Originally, the impressive building served as a church, later it became a mosque and since 1935 it has been a museum. But the Hagia Sophia is best known as a spectacular architectural landmark. In 532, a group of architects were commissioned to build a church that would be unlike any other church - and they certainly succeeded.
At the time, the Hagia Sophia was quite a revolutionary building. It marked the beginning of a new period in early Christian architecture. At the time most cathedrals had a rectangular shape – a round dome with a diameter of more than 30 metres was unheard of in the Byzantine world. Even the architects, who boasted a great understanding of civil engineering, were unsure if the construction would hold. Twenty years later an earthquake caused the dome to collapse, but it was immediately restored.