Hagia Sophia Istanbul
Tunnels of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia keeps its secrets. With the documentary “Beneath the Hagia Sophia”, the myth of Hagia Sophia becomes a popular subject. But what are those legends? The divers’ team for the documentary searched the legend and the reality. 

To the legend, Hagia Sophia was important as Vatican. There were tunnels reaching to Princes Islands (Kinaliada) starting from Hagia Sophia. The underground tunnels covered the city of Constantinople. The huge cistern that a galley may sail was beneath earth. The tunnels under Hagia Sophia were reaching to Crypto rooms and the rooms for secret writings. The treasures were hidden beneath Hagia Sophia due to the sieges.

There was no certain information about any burial beneath Hagia Sophia. The divers revealed some graves under Hagia Sophia, St. Antinegos, the first person to be buried in Hagia Sophia from the 13th century, and Patriarch Athanasius– both the reality beyond the legend. The team reached two narrow corridors of about 70 centimeters height through Sultanahmet Square and Topkapı Palace, possibly were used by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II in the 5th-century as a hidden tunnel in order not to be seen by the public. Any trace of such legendary long tunnels or secret rooms is still a question after the permission taken just for one day. Yet, there are places to be discovered.

As the Ministry of Culture prohibits any change beneath the structure, the idea of tunnel entrances that might have closed in time may still a possibility, and, therefore, the legend may still continue.