Ancient Turkish Cathedral to Become a Mosque Again

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Ancient Turkish Cathedral to Become a Mosque Again

The ancient cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul – the former seat of eastern Christianity – could now be dedicated to use as a mosque after Turkey’s high court on Friday ruled its conversion into a museum in 1934 was unlawful.

The court’s decision revokes that museum status and would allow Hagia Sophia to become a working mosque once more, a decision which sparked a furious response within minutes of being confirmed, with UNESCO warning, “We call upon the Turkish authorities to engage in dialogue before taking any decision that might impact the universal value of the site.”

It was a decision long sought by conservative Muslims in Turkey and beyond and especially by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan, who leads an Islamic-oriented party, has previously spoken about possibly changing Hagia Sophia’s status to a mosque but has said his government would await the Council of State’s decision.

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

Four minarets were added to the terracotta-hued structure with cascading domes and the building was turned into an imperial mosque following the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople — the city that is now Istanbul.

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

 

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