Turkey’s other Hagia Sophia – in Trabzon

Once a church – and a hospital and a museum – it is now a mosque and also one of Turkey’s best-preserved buildings of the late Byzantine era. Admission is free and there is much here for visitors of all faiths

It may be far less famous and considerably smaller than its namesake in Istanbul but what Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia lacks in architectural splendour it makes up for in tranquillity and beauty. Right by the sea, it is ringed by palm trees, nesting birds and cool breezes, offering a welcome respite from Trabzon’s bazaar, busy port and humming Black Sea highway.

Its history reflects Turkey’s past. Built as a church in the 13th century, then converted to a mosque during the Ottoman empire, it had a spell as a cholera hospital before opening as a museum in 1964, and then was re-converted back to a mosque in 2013.

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