The Grand Hagia Sophia of Trabzon

The Hagia Sophia of Trabzon is nothing like its equivalent in Istanbul. Smaller and without any majestic pieces of art, it stands discreetly with the sea in the distance and no presence on the horizon.

Hagia Sophia

For many years, I assumed there was one Hagia Sophia in Turkey, which is the architectural masterpiece standing across from the Blue mosque in Istanbul.

However, there are four of them, two in Istanbul, one in Iznik and this one in Trabzon. On first sight, it does nothing to impress but do not dismiss it straight away because once inside, it is eye-catching.

Trabzon Ayasofya

About the Hagia Sophia of Trabzon

Ayasofya in Trabzon

Built in the thirteenth century, the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) of Trabzon is an example of Byzantine architecture with the typical dome structure in the middle.

Trabzon Hagia Sophia

Small birds fly across the ceiling and rest on the ledges of the high windows. Colorful frescoes adorn the walls and if details are your passion, you will need a good guide or travel book to explain their meaning.

Frescoes at Ayasofya

I walked around the outside of the building and looked carefully at the stone. I was surprised to see old pictures of boats carved into the walls.

I was curious why they were there and who made them. The guide said they date back roughly five hundred years, made by sailors who wanted to be blessed in the hope they survived long journeys.

In those days, there was an old saying in this area.

If someone looked sad or depressed, the typical response was

“What is wrong? You look like your boat has sunk in the Black Sea”

The sailors of that era faced many ordeals and if they did not drown, they were fortunate, hence the drawings.

Entrance to the Hagia sophia in Trabzon

Like its counterpart in Istanbul, the history of the Hagia Sophia in Trabzon is much the same. It began life as a church and according to the Ottoman traveler, Evliya Celebi “it was built at a time of non-believers” so it was converted to a mosque in 1511.


When the Russians invaded the area, it was a hospital and storage depot, and then from 1958 to 1962, it was restored and opened as a museum. In July 2013, it was converted back into a mosque but is still open to visitors.

Carvings on the Ayasofya

The Hagia Sophia of Trabzon might be smaller than the one in Istanbul but it can hold its own and is a “must visit,” if you are in the region.

Hagia Sophia Trabzon

Readers Question : Did you know there was more than one Hagia Sophia in Turkey?

Clock tower of the Hagia Sophia in Trabzon


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Hi. I'm Natalie, a freelance travel blogger and writer specializing in the country of Turkey. I love hot summer days, historical sites and coffee.

28 Responses

  1. Well – latest plans are to turn it into a mosque Lori so we need to wait and see

  2. Lori

    Old, but beautiful! I’m guessing it could be restored?

  3. Thanks for letting us know Christos

  4. Christos

    Hello all,
    Hagia Sofia in Greek (???? ?????) or Saint Sophia in English are christian Greek orthodox churches dedicated to Saint Sophia. So it is likely to find few of them in places where Greeks used to live.

  5. I hope you got a good idea of the architecture from the pictures Andrew. It is a small place but the architecture is very impressive, especially considering its age

  6. Andrew

    That is pretty cool. Like in France with the many Notre Dame’s. I like the architecture too. And though really interesting, I am not a big fan of the paintings. I tend to like sculpture and form better than decoration in my church architecture.

  7. It was small yet still beautiful – glad you like the pictures

  8. Turtle

    Wow… didn’t realise there was more than one. Although Istanbul’s is so gorgeous, this one seems to have its own charm. And a beautiful location!
    Great photos too, btw. Love them!

  9. It is smaller but just as pretty Adela. The ocean backdrop does add to the overall appearance as well

  10. Adela @FourJandals

    I have been to the one in Istanbul but I had no idea there were more! This one looks beautiful, especially with the ocean back drop 🙂

  11. Look forward to seeing your posts next year tom. hopefully Gossip girl won’t be on the agenda. 😉

  12. I had no clue that there were four Hagia Sophias in Turkey! This one looks beautiful, and I’ll be stopping off in Trabzon next year on my way from Istanbul to Georgia – will DEFINITELY check this out, right up my street. Thanks for sharing 😀

  13. Apparently the other one in Istanbul is a small one that does not often get mentioned in the guidebooks. considering the size of the main one, I can understand why!

  14. Amazing when you think about the history of the people who have been connected with these buildings as well.

  15. Kurt

    I had no idea that there was two in Istanbul either. Its great that despite all the cultures, turbulence and time these things are still around for us to appreciate.

  16. That’s quite something! Absolutely beautiful. Ancient religious establishments always astound me, so much work and love went into them.

  17. Amazing isn’t it DJ – who knows the stories of the people that have stepped inside over hundreds of years.

  18. It is in amazing condition to say how old it is Ozlem – definitely put it on your list pf places to visit next time you are in Trabzon

  19. That is one of my favourite as well Laura

  20. Yes Still beautiful, even without all the masterpieces of art. Sometimes I think I am so lucky to travel and see places like this.

  21. Beautiful… Stuff this old just boggles my mind…

  22. Gorgeous photos Natalie; I haven’t been inside the Trabzon Hagia Sophia – yet again, lack of time- looks amazingly well kept, so colorful and vivid, a must visit 🙂

  23. I love that first photo. So beautiful!

  24. Angela

    Impossible to confuse it with Istanbul once, but beautiful nonetheless!

  25. Thank you Alan – not seen an updated post from yourself this week. Are you having a holiday? 🙂

  26. I did not realise either Ali. No comparison with size but this one is still just as nice

  27. Alan

    your photos do you proud once again – lovely muted colours. Another enjoyable post.

  28. Ali

    I had no idea there was more than one, let alone 4! Looks like a beautiful place even if it can’t quite compete with the famous one in Istanbul.