Jonas Lau Markussen

The Hagia Sophia Rune Inscriptions

Three runic texts have been documented among the many graffiti inscriptions in Hagia Sophia.


Hagia Sophia, while now a mosque, was the greatest Christian cathedral of the Byzantine Empire, located in its capital Constantinople (now Istanbul).


All three inscriptions are tough to decipher as they are worn and vague. Dating is difficult too, but they have most likely been produced c. 1050-1150 and were most likely carved by Scandinavian mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine emperor. The emperor’s guard began to be staffed by Scandinavians in the 980s. One of the duties of the guards was to attend services in the cathedral as the bodyguards of the Byzantine emperor.




The Halfdan inscription


The inscription is located on the marble screen of the south gallery and measures 23 cm in length with a rune height of 1,5-5 cm.




(ᚼ/ᛆ)ᛚᚠᛐᛆᚿ …



alftan/hlftan …


Old Norse/English

Halfdan …




The Arni Inscription


The inscription is located in the north gallery and measures 24 mm in length with a rune height of 16-22 mm.









Old Norse/English




The Arinbárðr Inscription


The inscription is located on a marble windowsill in the eastern wall of the northern first-floor gallery and measures 26,8 cm in length with a rune height of 3-4,8 cm.









Old Norse

Arinbárðr rеist rúnar þessar [older: þā(ʀ)si]



Arinbárðr cut these runes




Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Türkiye.






Larsson, Mats. 1989. Nyfunna runor i Hagia Sofia. Fornvännen 84.


Melʹnikova, Elena. 2016. A New Runic Inscription from Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul. Futhark, International Journal of Runic Studies. Vol. 7.


Svärdström, Elisabeth. 1970. Runorna i Hagia Sofia. Fornvännen 65.


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