Erdogan Formally Converts Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Back Into a Mosque

The president of Turkey on Friday formally converted Istanbul’s sixth-century Hagia Sophia back into a mosque and declared it open for Muslim worship, hours after a high court annulled a 1934 decision that had made the religious landmark a museum.

The decision sparked deep dismay among Orthodox Christians. Originally a cathedral, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque after Istanbul’s conquest by the Ottoman Empire but had been a museum for the last 86 years, drawing millions of tourists annually.

Turkey’s high administrative court threw its weight behind a petition brought by a religious group and annulled the 1934 Cabinet decision that turned the site into a museum. Within hours, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree handing over Hagia Sophia to Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency.

In a televised address to the nation, Erdogan said the first prayers inside Hagia Sofia would be held on July 24, and he urged respect for the decision.

Erdogan had spoken in favor of turning the hugely symbolic UNESCO World Heritage site back into a mosque despite widespread international criticism, including from U.S. and Orthodox Christian leaders, who had urged Turkey to keep its status as a museum symbolizing solidarity among faiths and cultures.

The decision threatens to deepen tensions with neighboring Greece, whose culture minister, Lina Mendoni, denounced the move as “an open challenge to the entire civilized world that recognizes the unique value and universality of the monument.”

In Paris, the United Nations cultural body, UNESCO, said it deeply regretted the decision.

“Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue,” said Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

Some Islamic prayers have been held in the museum in recent years. In a major symbolic move, Erdogan recited the opening verse of the Quran there in 2018.

Built under Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries, where emperors were crowned amid ornate marble and mosaic decorations.

The minarets were added later and the building was turned into an imperial mosque following the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople — the city that is now called Istanbul.

The building opened its doors as a museum in 1935, a year after the Council of Ministers’ decision.

Mosaics depicting Jesus, Mary and Christian saints that were plastered over in line with Islamic rules were uncovered through arduous restoration work for the museum. Hagia Sophia was the most popular museum in Turkey last year, drawing more than 3.7 million visitors.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm

QUICKTAKE ON SOCIAL:
Follow QuickTake on Twitter: twitter.com/quicktake
Like QuickTake on Facebook: facebook.com/quicktake
Follow QuickTake on Instagram: instagram.com/quicktake
Subscribe to our newsletter: https://bit.ly/2FJ0oQZ
Email us at quicktakenews@gmail.com

QuickTake by Bloomberg is a global news network delivering up-to-the-minute analysis on the biggest news, trends and ideas for a new generation of leaders.

In This Story: Greece

Greece is a country in southeastern Europe with thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas. Influential in ancient times, it’s often called the cradle of Western civilization. Athens, its capital, retains landmarks including the 5th-century B.C. Acropolis citadel with the Parthenon temple. Greece is also known for its beaches, from the black sands of Santorini to the party resorts of Mykonos.

2 Recent Items: Greece

  • New Greek camp: Asylum seekers moved to facility
  • Greece to open new ‘controlled’ migrant camp as rights groups criticise restrictions
  • In This Story: Paris

    Paris, France‘s capital, is a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Its 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Major landmarks include the Eiffel Tower, the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées.

    3 Recent Items: Paris

  • Live: French ‘Spider-Man’ climbs building in Paris
  • UN Secretary-General: “No region is immune to hazards of climate change”
  • Can Washington sooth tensions across the Atlantic? | Inside Story
  • In This Story: Turkey

    Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly on the Anatolian Peninsula in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe.

    Istanbul, which straddles Europe and Asia, is the country’s largest city, while Ankara is the capital. The majority of the population identifies as Turkish, around 20% identify as Kurdish.

    3 Recent Items: Turkey

  • Police Search Florida Swamp for Boyfriend of Blogger Gabby Petito
  • Greek PM Says 5.9% Growth Forecast for 2021 May Be Pessimistic
  • Are Turkey-US relations getting warmer?
  • Leave a Comment

    We don't require your email address now, just your name. BUT, if you do add it, you may be notified if there are replies to your comment. Please make respectful comments, which add value, and avoid personal attacks on others. Comments failing to adhere to these guidelines will not be published.