Tag Archives: Hagia Sophia Museum

Hagia Sophia Museum: Turkish leader, Erdogan visit after turning to Mosque

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Some 500 worshippers are set to attend Muslim prayers at UNESCO World Heritage site on Friday.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has paid a surprise visit to Hagia Sophia just days before the first Muslim prayers are due to be held at the Istanbul landmark since it was reconverted to a mosque last week.

In a quick visit billed as an inspection, Erdogan took stock of the conversion work, the president’s office said on Sunday, providing pictures showing scaffolding inside the building.

Turkey tries journalists accused of revealing
The Diyanet, the country’s religious authority, said Christian icons would be curtained off and unlit “through appropriate means during prayer times”.

It was unclear whether Erdogan planned to be among some 500 worshippers set to attend Friday prayers.

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Turkey’s top court paved the way for the conversion in a decision to revoke the edifice’s museum status conferred nearly a century ago.

The sixth-century building had been open to all visitors, regardless of their faith, since its inauguration as a museum in 1935.

Erdogan says decision to change the status of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque represents his country’s will to use its ‘sovereign rights’ [Turkish presidency/AFP]

Earlier this week, the Diyanet said the building would continue to be open to all visitors outside the hours given over to prayer.

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The UNESCO World Heritage site was built as a cathedral during the Byzantine empire but converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

It was designated a museum in a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Erdogan had long called for Hagia Sophia to be reconverted into a mosque [Turkish presidency/AFP]
Erdogan said last year it had been a "very big mistake" to convert the Hagia Sophia into a museum.

The reconversion sparked anger among Christians and tensions between historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Turkey and Greece.


#Newsworthy…

Reactions from ‘Globe’ as turkey reconvert Museum into Mosque

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UNESCO, Greece, Cyprus and church leaders among others express concern about changing status of the sixth-century site.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia open to Muslim worship on Friday after a top court ruled the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal.

Erdogan made his announcement, just an hour after the court ruling was revealed, despite international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument, revered by Christians and Muslims alike.

“The decision was taken to hand over the management of the Ayasofya Mosque … to the Religious Affairs Directorate and open it for worship,” the decision signed by Erdogan said.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site in Istanbul, a magnet for tourists worldwide, was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Awaiting of decision for Hagia Sophia trialThe court decision was followed quickly by Erdogan saying that the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Istanbul would be reopened for Muslim worship.

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The Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, unanimously cancelled a 1934 cabinet decision and said Hagia Sophia was registered as a mosque in its property deeds.

The United States, Greece and church leaders were among those to express concern about changing the status of the huge sixth-century building, converted into a museum in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Below is a round-up of international reaction to Friday's decisions.

Church leaders
The Russian Orthodox Church expressed dismay at Turkey’s decision to revoke the museum status of Hagia Sophia, accusing it of ignoring voices of millions of Christians.

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“The concern of millions of Christians has not been heard,” Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said in comments carried by the Russian news agency Interfax.

“Today’s court ruling shows that all calls for the need for extreme delicacy in this matter were ignored,” Legoida said.

The Russian Orthodox Church previously urged caution over calls to alter the status of the historic former cathedral, and Russian Patriarch Kirill said he was “deeply concerned” about such a potential move and called it a “threat to the whole of Christian civilisation”.

Previously, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said converting it into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would “fracture” East and West.

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UNESCO
UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status, saying it was “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialog nor notification beforehand”.

The Hagia Sophia is a landmark of Istanbul, once serving as Christian cathedral, later as a mosque, then as a museum [Reuters]

“UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialog without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session,” the United Nation’s cultural body said in a statement.

The European Union
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the decision “regrettable”.

“The ruling by the Turkish Council of State to overturn one of modern Turkey’s landmark decisions and President Erdogan’s decision to place the monument under the management of the Religious Affairs Presidency is regrettable,” he said in a statement.

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Cyprus
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, a Greek Cypriot, posted on his official Twitter account that Cyprus “strongly condemns Turkey’s actions on Hagia Sophia in its effort to distract domestic opinion and calls on Turkey to respect its international obligations”.

United States of America
“We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia,” Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokesperson, said in a statement.

“We understand the Turkish Government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all.”

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Greece
Greece branded Turkey’s move an “open provocation to the civilised world”.

“The nationalism displayed by Erdogan … takes his country back six centuries,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.

Mendoni further said the court ruling “absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice” in Turkey.

Russia
Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian upper house of parliament, called the action “a mistake”.

“Turning it into a mosque will not do anything for the Muslim world. It does not bring nations together, but on the contrary brings them into collision,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

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Turkey turns her 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia museum into Mosque

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President Erdogan declares iconic cultural site reopen to Muslim worship after a court ruling.


Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia open to Muslim worship after a top court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal.

Erdogan made the announcement on Friday an hour after the court ruling was revealed, despite international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument, revered by Christians and Muslims alike.

“The decision was taken to hand over the management of the Ayasofya Mosque … to the Religious Affairs Directorate and open it for worship,” the decision signed by Erdogan said.

Erdogan had previously proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.

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Earlier, a top Turkish court revoked the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum. The Council of State, which was debating a case brought by a Turkish religious organisation, cancelled a 1934 cabinet decision that defined the sixth-century building as a museum.

“It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally,” Turkey’s top administrative court said in the ruling.

The 1,500-year-old monument is revered by Christians and Muslims alike [Anadolu]

“The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws,” it said.

Erdogan shared on his Twitter feed a copy of the decree he had signed which said the decision had been taken to hand control of the Ayasofya Mosque, as it is known in Turkish, to the country’s religious directorate and reopen it for worship.

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Reporting from Istanbul, Noble Reporters Media learnt the decree was not a surprise as Erdogan had previously stated that he would like to see Hagia Sophia open for Muslim prayers on July 15, the anniversary of a failed coup attempt.

Koseoglu said that in four hours Erdogan was expected to make a speech on the importance of the Hagia Sophia, and its status being altered to a mosque again.

“There are dozens of people in front of Hagia Sophia museum. As soon as the court decision was announced … they have been here chanting, they have been celebrating since then, and we spoke to them, they are very impatient to be able to pray inside Hagia Sophia,” Koseoglu said.

International concerns
Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

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In 1935, in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it became a museum.

The organisation which brought the court case, the latest in a 16-year legal battle, said the Hagia Sophia was the property of the Ottoman leader who captured the city in 1453 and turned the already 900-year-old Byzantine church into a mosque.

Erdogan threw his weight behind the campaign to convert the building before local elections last year. He is due to speak shortly before 9pm (1800 GMT), his head of communications said.

In response to the ruling, the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday said the decision could lead to even greater divisions.

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The United States, Russia and Greece, along with UNESCO, had expressed concerns ahead of the ruling.

UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status, saying it was “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialog nor notification beforehand”.

“UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialog without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session,” the United Nation’s cultural body said in a statement.

Erdogan earlier this month rejected international criticism as an attack on Turkey’s sovereignty.


#Newsworthy…

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