Gli, the Cat that Lives in Hagia Sophia

By Letizia L

Hagia Sophia, one of the symbols of Istanbul, has had several roles in its long history: the church was built by the emperor Justinian and was later transformed into the Ottoman imperial mosque and, more recently into a museum complex.

Today, however, it is also becoming famous for having become the home of a nice and fluffy cat who is slightly cross-eyed. The cat has become an attraction not only for visitors to the former temple but also an Instagram star on social media, which the Turkish museum has recently put an official profile of the feline, immediately popular.

The cat, which is called Gli, or “union of love”, perfectly fulfills its role as host. “He really likes to pose,” explains Umut Bahceci, tourist guide and editor of Gli’s web page. “In ancient times, cats were worshiped as gods and I have not forgotten it.”

He has his strategies. When he “receives” tourists for caresses, cuddles, and photographs, he puts himself under the Minbar, the podium from which the muezzins preached in the Ottoman era. When instead he wants to rest he takes refuge in the omphalos, from the Greek term “navel”, the place where the Byzantine emperors were crowned under the dome.

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The marble of the omphalos is particularly valuable and cannot be walked on by visitors. Gli, now fourteen, also has a sister, Kizim, who lives with her in the former Justinian church but is much less famous. Among the many moments of glory of the feline queen of Hagia Sophia, the meeting with the then US President Barak Obama, visiting Istanbul, was definitely among the best ones.