Turkey has confirmed that the Hagia Sophia, originally a church, then a mosque, now a museum for nearly the last century, will revert to a mosque later this month. Will Istanbul’s most famous landmark now be off-limits to non-Muslims or will Hagia Sophia tourism continue even as a mosque?
Hagia Sophia Reverts To Mosque
I detailed the issue earlier in the week, but Hagia Sophia, a sixth-century Byzantine structure, became a museum in 1935 after roughly 400 years as a mosque. Prior to that, it had been a Christian church for nearly 1,000 years. The launch of the Turkish Republic under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk moved the nation in a secular direction. As such, the Hagia Sophia was designated as a museum to recognize Turkey’s new direction and its historic links to both Christianity and Islam.
But Turkey has grown much more Islamic under the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. For years, Erdoğan has bemoaned the status of Hagia Sophia, expressing his belief that Muslims should be free to worship at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yesterday, Erdoğan received his wish. After a Turkish court ruled that the mosque was impermissibly designated a museum, Erdogan addressed the nation. He announced prayer would return to Hagia Sophia on July 24th, adding:
“God willing, we will perform Friday prayers all together on July 24 and reopen Hagia Sophia to worshipping.”
Leaders around the world, including from UNESCO, the United States, Russia, and Greece have condemned the move. Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said:
“The nationalism displayed by Erdogan… takes his country back six centuries.”
Will Hagia Sophia Still Be Open To Tourists?
Erdoğan assured listeners that the Hagia Sophia would remain open to all in his address:
“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims.”
It may mean more limited hours, however, since the mosque may face closure to the public during prayer times. Female visitors may also have to cover up, as they do when visiting the adjacent Blue Mosque.
Hagia Sophia will once again become a mosque. That will change some aspects of tourism, but Hagia Sophia will remain open to the public.
What are your thoughts on Hagia Sophia becoming a mosque again?