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25 Mar, 2019 09:56

Erdogan: Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia might be active mosque again

Erdogan: Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia might be active mosque again

Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, originally a Byzantine Christian church, might be turned into a mosque again – a potential back-down from the legacy of Turkey’s secular government that turned the site into a museum in 1935.

“This is not unlikely,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a live interview with Turkish television on Monday, adding, “We might even change its name to Ayasofya Mosque.”

The Hagia Sophia became a museum under Turkey’s secularist government back in 1935, but “we may as well take a step and change that,” he said.

Erdogan hinted that the change in status would benefit tourists. “Tourists come and go at the Blue Mosque. Do they pay anything?” he asked, referring to another popular site in Istanbul. “Well, we will do the same with the Hagia Sofia.”

The Hagia Sophia was first built as a church by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century and served as the main Orthodox Christian church. Following the conquest of Constantinople, now Istanbul,  by the Ottomans in 1453, it was immediately converted into a mosque.

It was the world’s largest cathedral surpassed only in the 16th century by  the Catholic Seville Cathedral was erected in Spain and later by St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican. 

The idea of turning the Hagia Sophia into an active mosque has been around for several years. Some high-ranking politicians and Muslim clerics suggested that the place be opened to worshippers, triggering backlash in Greece, Turkey’s historic rival.

That aside, in 2016, the traditional Muslim call to prayer, the adhan, was chanted from a prayer room, not from inside the historic landmark.

In 2015, thousands of worshippers performed a morning prayer in front of the Hagia Sophia on the 562nd anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.

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