Hagia Sophia is a mosque now. What does this mean to the world?
If you like to travel and know, about the historical monuments in the world then you must have heard of Hagia Sophia. This beautiful UNESCO Heritage Site is more than 1500 years old and has an importance in the cultural diversity of Turkey. But now the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has officially stated that this museum would be reconverted into a mosque.
The first prayers would take place next week on July 24.
What’s Hagia Sophia?
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 centuries-old structure, listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, was originally a cathedral in the Byzantine empire before it was turned into a mosque in 1453, when Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet II’s Ottoman forces. The minarets were added later.
Constantinople is now called Istanbul.
More secular colours
In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, shut down the mosque and turned it into a museum in an attempt to make the country more secular.
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.
But now as it is reconverted to mosque, there’s a debate that hits at the heart of Turkey’s religious-secular divide. Nationalist and conservative groups in Turkey have long yearned to hold prayers at Hagia Sophia, which they regard as part of the Muslim Ottoman legacy. Others believe it should remain a museum, as a symbol of Christian and Muslim solidarity. Now with reconversion, there’s dismay among the minorities in the country and Orthodox Christians worldwide.