His decision is highly controversial, given Hagia Sophia’s reputation as a major monument of human history. Dennis Jarvis/Flickr. Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque with the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. Hagia Sofia was officially opened as a mosque with Friday prayers and a special sermon that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, other Turkish … Hagia Sophia, which stands opposite the impressive Sultanahmet Mosque -- often called the Blue Mosque -- has been a museum since 1935 and open to … If you click “Agree and Continue” below, you acknowledge that your cookie choices in those tools will be respected and that you otherwise agree to the use of cookies on NPR’s sites. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the … The Hagia Sophia Is Now a Mosque The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was built by the Byzantines in the sixth century AD as a Christian church. In one of the strongest protests, the Italian Association for Byzantine Studies, headed by Antonio Rigo at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, warned that turning Hagia Sophia into a working mosque in today’s Turkey would mean confining the monument to abuse and suffocation. Hagia Sophia: the mosque-turned-museum at the heart of an ideological battle Read more The Unesco-listed Hagia Sophia (Divine Wisdom), known in … “This is a festival for us today, we are so happy,” said Selahattin Yigiter, a retired businessman who was sitting with his wife on a prayer mat on the sidewalk below the nearly 1,500-year-old building. Mr. Erdogan visited Hagia Sophia twice to oversee preparations, posing for photos, the second time on Thursday evening with his wife, Emine, in front of white drapery that has been suspended in the apse to conceal one of the famous mosaics, depicting the Virgin and Child. “They hesitate to speak their thoughts and if they are sad religiously they are not in a state to identify that.’’. It deplored what it said was an “egregious display of intolerance and ideological narrowness” from Mr. Erdogan and condemned what it described as exaltation of the violence of conquest. Under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the modern Turkish republic, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum and all religious services ended. This picture released by the Turkish presidential press office shows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting Hagia Sophia last week. See details. Restoring Hagia Sophia as a mosque is a capstone of his reign, Mr. Cagaptay said. “Hagia Sophia is not merely a monument, but a rich and inexhaustible source of historical knowledge, a document open to investigation,” the association said in an open letter. Turkish Presidential press office, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. It was the largest and arguably the most famous Christian church in the world for nearly a thousand years. In 1453, the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople and converted the majestic building into a mosque: It became one of Islam’s holiest sites. Many in Turkey see the move as pure political theater, part of Mr. Erdogan’s effort to buoy his political standing, which has wobbled after nearly two decades atop Turkish politics and as the pandemic further set back an already shaky economy. It is something he has always believed in,” Mr. Cagaptay added, referring to Mr. Erdogan, “and he wants to do it before he is gone.”. “It is something we were waiting for, for years,” said Dilek Aydin, a schoolteacher with her 16-year-old daughter. Mehmed II, when he conquered Constantinople, was impressed by the grandeur of the building and took care to preserve it, both Islamists and academics concur. Built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453. Here is the historical, religious, and political background for this charged issue. “The conqueror was amazed by the magnificence of the building — so much so that, according to our sources, he struck a soldier who, blinded with fanaticism, was shattering the marble floor.”. The architectural marvel was built as a church by the Byzantines … Tourists who will come to visit mosques in Istanbul will visit "Hagia Sophia not as a museum, but as a mosque," the president said. You may click on “Your Choices” below to learn about and use cookie management tools to limit use of cookies when you visit NPR’s sites. “In Hagia Sophia, whose dome stands as though suspended from the heavens, emperors were crowned; in Hagia Sophia, the splendor of the Orthodox liturgy led to the conversion of the Russian people; in Hagia Sophia, on the morning of May 29, 1453, the terrified people gathered for one last, desperate prayer,” the association wrote. The 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, will become an active mosque beginning on July 24, ending its 85-year run as a secular museum. “Through its reversion back into a place of worship, with all the inevitable alterations this entails — it was destined to become closed and silent,” it said. Ottoman won the Constantinople and Mehmed II (emperor of Ottomans) had it repurposed as a mosque and in 1453, Hagia Sophia is changed from church to mosque with several changes. Hagia Sophia Hosts 1st Friday Prayers Since It Was Turned Back Into A Mosque The Istanbul landmark has long been hailed as a symbol of the … In July 2020, Erdoğan announced that Hagia Sophia will be changed back into a mosque. Drapes covered Christian artwork in Hagia Sophia for its reopening as a mosque. NPR’s sites use cookies, similar tracking and storage technologies, and information about the device you use to access our sites (together, “cookies”) to enhance your viewing, listening and user experience, personalize content, personalize messages from NPR’s sponsors, provide social media features, and analyze NPR’s traffic. Built in the sixth century by a Byzantine emperor, Justinian I, Hagia Sophia was for nearly a thousand years the largest church in the world and the center of Christendom. For the past 86 years, it has stood as monument to the competing of empires and religions whose histories had melded, sometimes awkwardly, at the World Heritage site. More and more signs are pointing to Istanbul's famous Hagia Sophia, currently a museum, slowly returning to a past role as a mosque. When Constantinople was conquered, the Sultan remunerated for the property … Afternoon prayers in Hagia Sophia on Friday. Hagia Sophia was built as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire and was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453 and changed the … The association appealed to scholars and “members of humanity” to take a stand and prevent an “act of abuse against all peoples of the world and against their hopes for reconciliation and peace.”. Supporters of Mr. Erdogan also acknowledged they had needed the decision to boost their morale after losing Istanbul in mayoral elections last year. The leader of the main opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said he would not be attending the opening not because he was opposed to the conversion, but because did not believe in making a display of praying before television cameras. Turkey was already conducting a slow but systematic effort to cover up its Byzantine past by making alterations in half a dozen Byzantine churches restored into mosques around the country, the association said. Hagia Sophia was converted into a … Television footage of the interior seemed to show one of the most important spots — that where emperors were crowned — remained exposed. Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque with the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. Under heavy police security, worshipers settled on the streets and sidewalks on their rugs, covering their faces with masks against the coronavirus and their heads with makeshift shades as the sun grew searingly hot. 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