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Little Hagia Sophia (Küçük Ayasofya Camii), formerly the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus, is a former Eastern Orthodox church dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople, converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire.

According to later legend, during the reign of Justin I, his nephew Justinian had been accused of plotting against the throne and was sentenced to death, avoided after Saints Sergius and Bacchus appeared before Justin and vouched for Justinian’s innocence. He was freed and restored to his title of Caesar, and in gratitude vowed that he would dedicate a church to the saints once he became emperor. The construction of this Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, between 527 and 536 AD (only a short time before the erection of the Hagia Sophia between 532 and 537), was one of the first acts of the reign of Justinian I.

The new church lay at the border between the First and Τhird Regio of the City, in an irregular area between the Palace of Hormisdas (the house of Justinian before his accession to the throne) and the Church of the Saints Peter and Paul. Back then, the two churches shared the same narthex, atrium and propylaea. The new church became the center of the complex, and part still survives today, towards the south of the northern wall of one of the two other edifices. The church was one of the most important religious structures in Constantinople. Shortly after the building of the church a monastery bearing the same name was built near the edifice.

After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the church remained untouched until the reign of Bayezid II. Then (between 1506 and 1513) it was transformed into a mosque by Hüseyin Ağa, the Chief Black Eunuch, custodian of the Bab-ı-Saadet (literally The Gate of Felicity in Ottoman Turkish) in the Sultan's residence, the Topkapı Palace. At that time the portico and madrasah were added to the church.

Due to the increasing threats to the building's static integrity, it was added some years ago to the UNESCO watch list of endangered monuments. After an extensive restoration which lasted several years and ended in September 2006, it has been opened again to the public and for worship.

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Additional Photos by Aleksandar Dekanski (dekanski) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 176 W: 89 N: 247] (2550)
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