Islamised Hagia Sophia Holds First Ramadan Prayers for 88 Years

Islamised Hagia Sophia Holds First Ramadan Prayers for 88 Years

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, held its first Ramadan prayers in 88 years on Friday to mark the start of the Islamic month of fasting, after being converted into a mosque in 2020.

The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque — once the Church of the Holy Wisdom, before the Turks’ violent conquest of its city — held its first tarawih prayer since 1934, when the cathedral-turned-mosque was converted into a museum by the secularising government of Kemal Atatürk.

Turkey’s President Recept Tayyip Erdogan had converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque in 2020 despite protests from local Christians and many abroad — although Erdogan achieved his conversion of the iconic house of worship with less accompanying destruction than Mehmet II in 1453, at least:

The conquering sultan, Mehmet II, personally oversaw the conversion of Hagia Sophia. Crosses were demolished and exchanged for crescents, altars and bells were destroyed, icons were burned or hacked to pieces, mosaics and frescoes depicting Christian imagery were plastered over, and most of the cathedral’s priests were killed or enslaved.

In time, four colossal minarets were erected to surround Hagia Sophia, producing the iconic image that has come to be globally associated with Ottoman Constantinople and Turkish Istanbul. - Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Metropolis of Chicago

Due to Covid, Ramadan prayers did not take place in the Hagia Sophia in 2021, according to a report from the Andalou news agency.

According to the Turkish outlet, due to a number of factors including relatively low numbers of cases and deaths, the government decided to allow Muslims to attend the Hagia Sophia to mark the start of Ramadan and prayers will be held throughout the month