AP Explains: Hagia Sophia’s history of Battle and Religion

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to combine countless worshippers Friday to its first Muslim prayers in the Hagia Sophia in 86 decades, following a contentious high court ruling paved the way for its landmark monument to be turned back to a mosque.

A government decree reopened the”gem” of the Portuguese Empire for Muslim worship and abolished its standing as a museum. The transformation of that which was once the most significant church of Christendom has resulted in a global outcry.

The 6th-century monument, which remains the major quality of the Istanbul skyline, has a background rich in symbolism.


Finished in 537, it had been one of the world’s biggest domed structures and could function as the foremost Orthodox Christian church for some 900 decades. The multicolored mosaics depicting the Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus, angels, and other Christian symbols together with emperors and their families that generations of rulers installed to its standing as an architectural jewel.


Ottoman sultan Mehmet the Conqueror conquered the Byzantine Empire and seized Istanbul, then Called Constantinople, in 1453. The 21-year-old instantly turned into the royal Hagia Sophia into a mosque as a symbol of Muslim victory over town. The structure served as a royal mosque and following sultans additional minarets, a college, library plus also a fountain, completing its transformation into a mosque complex. The mosaics were finally plastered over in accord with iconoclasm customs that pub the depiction of characters.

Its mosaics were introduced back to the open, and also the arrangement functioned for decades as a sign of Istanbul’s wealthy multi-faith and multicultural past.

Included among the list of World Heritage sites preserved by the U.N. cultural body UNESCO, it turned into one of Turkey’s most-visited landmarks, attracting millions of tourists each year. But, Atakurk’s choice to stop Hagia Sophia’s usage as a mosque has been met with dismay by religious and civic groups. They had called for its iconic building to be”freed from its chains” and transformed back to a Muslim place of worship.


His administration has pledged to guard the Hagia Sophia’s Christian artifacts and also to maintain the structure open to tourists out prayer hours.

The ticket kiosk outside was eliminated and the inside floors are coated in turquoise-colored carpeting chosen from the president in preparation for its very first Friday prayers. Some 500 encouraged participants will have to maintain social space on account of this coronavirus outbreak. The mosaics will be coated with drapes throughout the prayers, officials have said.

To get Erdogan, a Muslim whose ruling party has origins in Turkey’s Muslim movement, acting Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia is a fantasy from his childhood coming true. He’s explained Ataturk’s choice to turn it into a tradition as an “error” that is currently being rectified.

Critics see the president’s choice as the most recent move by Erdogan to divert attention from economic woes that the coronavirus has just exacerbated and also to shore up his conservative-religious service foundation. Opening up Hagia Sophia to Muslim Truth is also viewed as part of Erdogan’s attempts to overthrow Turkey’s Muslim identity and also to roll his predecessor’s secular legacy.