The pontiff then went to the nearby Hagia Sophia Museum, originally built as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the 6th century before being converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453.
Hayrullah Cengiz, the director of the museum, briefed Pope Francis about the history of the Hagia Sophia. "I always enjoy telling about this section," Cengiz told the pontiff at one point, stressing the importance of a part of the building where centuries-old Christian mosaics can be seen side by side with the historical Islamic writings.
After writing to the notebook of the museum, the Pope left the Hagia Sophia without praying, as the Islamic call of prayer from the speakers of nearby mosques was heard in the historic building.
Pope Francis' original schedule had listed the Hagia Sophia as the first stop, but it was changed at the last moment.
Later in the day the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics went to the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul for holy mass.
Pope Francis has arrived in Istanbul for the second leg of his three-day visit to Turkey, in a richly-symbolic trip. He prayed at the Blue Mosque, which was his first stop, before visiting the Hagia Sophia.
The Pope was welcomed by Turkish authorities and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Atatürk Airport at 10.29 a.m. on Nov 29. “Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, we welcome you with great joy, esteem and love.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” said Bartholomew I on greeting the Pope.
Pope Francis first went to the Sultan Ahmet mosque, known as the Blue Mosque, one of the greatest masterpieces of Ottoman architecture.
After Rahmi Yaran, the mufti of Istanbul, briefed him on the history of the mosque and quoted the Quranic verses about the life of Mother Mary, before Pope Francis asked if he could pray in a gesture reminiscent of his predecessor. The two religious figures then prayed together, facing Mecca, in what a Vatican spokesman described as a joint "moment of silent adoration" of God.
When his predecessor Benedict XVI visited the mosque in 2006, he assumed the Muslim attitude of prayer and turned towards Mecca in what many saw as a stunning gesture of reconciliation. The Vatican later made clear he had not actually prayed in the mosque but was "in meditation."