Hagia Sophia: Turkey turns the iconic Istanbul museum into a mosque.
The world-famous Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul -Turkey originally founded as a cathedral – has been turned again into a mosque.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the decision after a court annulled the site’s museum status.
Orthodox Christian cathedral was built 1500 years ago, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque after Ottoman conquest in 1453. It became a museum and Unesco World Heritage site in 1934.
Islamists in Turkey long called for it to be converted to a mosque but secular opposition members opposed the move. The proposal prompted criticism from religious and political leaders worldwide.
Defending the decision, President Erdogan stressed that the country had exercised its sovereign right in converting it back to a mosque.
He told in a press conference the first Muslim prayers would be held inside the building on 24 July 2020.
“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.
A big change is coming to Hagia Sophia, which has endured since the sixth century, outlasting the Byzantine empire and the Ottoman era. Now, once again, it’ll be a mosque. But Turkish officers say Christian emblems, consisting of mosaics of the Virgin Mary which enhance its soaring golden dome, will not be removed.
Making modifications at Hagia Sophia is profoundly symbolic. It was Kemal Ataturk, the founder of current Turkey, who decreed that it have to be a museum. President Erdogan is now taking one extra step to dismantle Ataturk’s secular legacy and remold Turkey in step with his vision. The Turkish leader – who presents himself as a cutting-edge day conqueror – is making no apologies for the change. He says absolutely everyone who does not like it – and lots overseas don’t – is attacking Turkey’s sovereignty.
Reclaiming Hagia Sophia plays properly along with his base – religious conservatives – and with Turkish nationalists. Critics say he’s using the issue to distract interest from the financial harm executed here by way of the Covid19 pandemic.
But many within the international network argue that the monument belongs to humanity – no longer to Turkey – and should have remained unchanged. They say it becomes a bridge between faiths and an image of co-existence.
History of a global icon
- Hagia Sophia’s complex history began in the year 537 when Byzantine emperor Justinian built the huge church overlooking the Golden Horn harbor.
- With its huge dome, it was believed to be the world’s largest church and building.
- It remained in Byzantine hands for centuries apart from a brief moment in 1204 when Crusaders raided the city.
- In 1453, in a devastating blow to the Byzantines, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II captured Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople), and the victorious conqueror performed Friday prayers inside Hagia Sophia.
- The Ottomans soon converted the building into a mosque, adding four minarets to the exterior and covering ornate Christian icons and gold mosaics with panels of Arabic religious calligraphy.
- After centuries at the heart of the Muslim Ottoman empire, it was turned into a museum in 1934 in a drive to make Turkey more secular.
- Today Hagia Sophia is Turkey’s most popular tourist site, attracting more than 3.7 million visitors a year.