This huge, brick-colored building standing at the southern size of the square was built in the 6th century. It was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans after the Conquest and is now a museum. In its heyday, the church was regarded as a sublime architectural achievement. The building stands on the site of two previous churches, one that had been destroyed by earthquake and fire.
The third and present structure was built at the orders of Emperor Justinian I by Anthemius, a mathematician, and Isidore, an architect, geometrician, and city planner. The two collaborators obeyed the emperor's orders splendidly producing a building that inspired awe and wonder. At its dedication in 537, Justinian is said to have murmered in amazement and pride "Soloman, I have surpassed thee"-a reference to the great temple that Soloman had built in Jerusalem. In the nearly millennium and a half since its construction, only three churches have been built on scale of Haghia Sophia: St Pauls in London, St Peter's in Rome, and the Duomo in Milan. Even today, Hagia Sophia has the power to spellbind even the most hardened skyscraper-blase city-dweller with its grand dimensions.