The ‘Little Hagia Sophia’ mosque (Turkish: Küçük Ayasofya Camii) was formerly the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus. The Greek Eastern Orthodox church was converted into a mosque during Ottoman times in the early 16th century.
- The original church was built between 527 and 536 CE to service the palace of Hormisdas, and was originally named after two Roman soldiers, Sergius and Bacchus. They were martyred for their faith and later became the patron saints of Christians in the Roman army. It was commissioned by Justinian shortly before the erection of Hagia Sophia and believed to have been designed by the same architects.
- The church remained untouched for sixty years after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 CE. It was transformed into a mosque by Hüseyin Ağa who was the Chief Black Eunuch in the Topkapi Palace. The portico and madrasah (school) were added at this time.
- Like most Byzantine churches of this era, is exterior is unassuming brick, and only once inside the proportions can be properly appreciated. It is basically an octagon with semicircular niches at its diagonals, inscribed in a rectangle. Nothing remains from the original church interior decoration, which was said to be covered in mosaics. During the conversion into a mosque, the windows and entranceway were changed, the floor level raised, and the interior walls plastered.
- As the first domed church, just preceding Hagia Sophia, it is regarded as one of the most important buildings in the development of Byzantine architecture in Istanbul.
- Opposite the mosque entrance is where the madrasah was located. The courtyard now serves as a shady tea garden.
References: The Rough Guide to Istanbul, Wikipedia