Transformation of HAGIA SOPHIA : FROM CHURCH TO MOSQUE
Hagia Sophia one of the UNESCO World Heritage site which was a Museum recently converted into Mosque after Turkish court ordered to start Islamic prayers inside the Museum.
History of HAGIA SOPHIA:
Situated on a hill overlooking the sea of Marmara & the Bosphorus. Byzantine Emperor Constantinus II commissioned the construction of the first Hagia Sophia in 360 AD. It was built with a wooden roof and soon burnt to the ground in riots. Theodosius II built a second version as a grand marble structure in 415 AD which was razed to the ground for the second time during the Nika Revolt in 532 AD. But some fragments of that building still remains .The Building that does remain today was built in 537AD during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. It was then the largest church of that time and it remain as that for almost 1000 years. It was then turned into a mosque after Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered Istanbul in 1453.
After Ottoman rule ended constitution of Republic of Turkey was adopted on 1924. On 1928 Turkey was declared as a Secular country. The Secularism in Turkey was adopted from French Model of secularism where it was discouraged to practice religion in public. In 1931 the founder of Byzantine institute of America Thomas Whittemore travelled to Istanbul and obtained the permission of the First President of Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to oversee the removal of plaster covering the Byzantine mosaics in Hagia Sophia and turned it from Mosque to Museum. A Book Published on 1972 Named “ Hagia Sophia: A History of Constantinopole” quotes Whittemore :-
“ Santa Sophia was a Mosque the day that I talked to him. The next Morning when I went to the mosque there was a sign on the floor written on Ataturk’s own hand. It said ‘The Museum is closed for Repairs’. ”
Hearing on whether it will be once again converted to Mosque or not was done in Turkish court and court told to once again start the prayers. On 10th July 2020 the decision of the council of ministers to transform the Hagia Sophia into a Museum was cancelled by the council of state , decreeing that Hagia Sophia can be used as a Mosque only and not for any other purpose. President Erdogan signed a decree which reverted it to a Mosque.
Since 2018 Turkish President Recip Tayip Erdogan has spoken of reverting the status of Hagia Sophia back to Mosque . A move to attract religious Populace . Mean while Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so its change would require UNESCO Approval.
UNESCO announced it “ deeply regrets” and the decision was made without prior discussion. Pope Francis said “ I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained”.
When President Erdogan Announced that the first Muslim prayers inside the building would happen on 24th July. He also added, “ Like all our Mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open for Locals and foreigners , Muslims and Non-Muslims”.