Picture it, Constantinople, 537. A young emperor dedicates a new structure to St. Sophia, the Divine Wisdom. Before this, he had spent many hours showing people how he could count to 21 while naked. The people marveled at the structure’s dome, and believed it must somehow be magical, since it didn’t collapse. Much like my cousin Vito thought the hair on his back was magical because it attracted the ladies.
But I digress. Seven centuries later, in 1204 the Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople and stripped the structure clean of anything they could remove. Much like cousin Vito after his electrolysis. After 1204, Hagia Sofia was used as a Catholic Cathedral until 1453 when the Turks took the city; much like Uncle Giuseppe took that waitress on the kitchen table.
But I digress. Sultan Mehmet II, who led the conquering Turkish forces, ordered that the structure be converted to a mosque immediately, and within a week Muslims were praying there. Four minarets were added, and from that time until the Ottoman period, various efforts were made to preserve and restore the structure. Much like cousin Gina’s many facelifts.
In 1934, a young peasant girl visited the mosque in the year it opened as a museum with both Christian and Muslim iconography coexisting. That young peasant girl was me, and that mosque was Hagia Sofia.
Note: Hagia Sophia was chosen a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. My hotel is just steps away!