- On 05/08/2020
- In Tips for travellers
Iconic Hagia Sophia Turns Into a Mosque
Hagia Sophia was built as a church in 537 AD, the largest church in the world at the time, as centre of the Christianity. More than 900 years later, when the city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, the church was converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmet II. After the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic, the nation’s founding president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk declared Hagia Sophia a museum in 1935. The historic site would be “open to the visits of all nations and religions,” according to his decree. And since then, it has been one of the most popular tourist sites in the country, welcoming millions of visitors. In 2019 alone, more than three million people visited.
In today’s ruling, the court found that after conquest of Istanbul, Ottoman ruler Sultan Mehmet II essentially established a foundation that owns Hagia Sophia to this day. According to the court, that legal status cannot be changed and the building’s use as a mosque cannot be altered. The recent decision by the Turkish government is to reconvert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The announcement came from a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the mosque will be opened for everyone and its historical mosaics will be preserved, as they have been for the past 500 years. Spokesperson also added that some images depicting the Virgin Mary and the archangel Gabriel, which are situated in the direction of Mecca, which Muslims face during prayer, would be covered with curtains during religious services. Other Christian figures depicted in the building did not pose a problem for worshippers since they were not in the direction of Mecca, so the images would be uncovered when the building was open for tourists.
Hagia Sophia will “absolutely’ be open to everyone; believers, non-believers, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and anyone will be able to see the mosaics as they once did.