Esra Bilgin/Anadolu Company by way of Getty Photos
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended prayers at Istanbul’s historic Hagia Sophia on Friday, finishing the well-known constructing’s conversion from a secular area right into a Muslim home of worship. It had been a museum for greater than 86 years.
The group was massive, with hundreds of individuals spilling outdoors the constructing and right into a plaza and grassy areas close to the sixth-century constructing, which is revered by each Muslims and Christians.
Erdogan’s determination to transform the landmark — a UNESCO World Heritage Website — from a museum again to a spiritual constructing has been controversial. The Hagia Sophia has lengthy been hailed as an emblem of the coexistence of Christianity and Islam, a cultural junction between East and West.
Its structure displays its distinctive standing, with its well-known dome ringed by minarets. Inside, intricate mosaics and artwork depict each Christian and Muslim symbols. However Erdogan revoked the Hagia Sophia’s museum standing earlier this month, appearing virtually instantly after a court docket cleared the way in which for the change.
On Friday, crowds of worshippers had been usually calm and quiet. A really massive media contingent was available, full with satellite tv for pc vehicles and a scaffolding set as much as give TV reside positions a view of the Hagia Sophia. Individuals who thronged a plaza and different areas close by may watch the ceremony and prayers on massive video screens.
Native store homeowners (those that had been open; many had been closed for Friday prayers as per regular) had been usually supportive of the change, saying they hope it’ll convey extra guests to the Sultanahmet space of Istanbul’s Outdated Metropolis.
In short interviews within the space, a number of folks talked about Mehmet the Conqueror, who initially ordered the conversion of the Hagia Sophia from a Byzantine church to a mosque after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire.
Maybe fittingly, after Erdogan attended the prayer service at Hagia Sophia, he went to a different mosque close by — one that’s named for Mehmet the Conqueror.
Earlier this month, UNESCO stated it “deeply regrets” Turkey’s determination” to declare the Hagia Sophia a mosque, urging native authorities to not alter the construction or prohibit entry.
“Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a singular testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries,” UNESCO Director-Basic Audrey Azoulay stated. “Its standing as a museum displays the common nature of its heritage, and makes it a robust image for dialogue.”
Erdogan stated on Friday that the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque shall be a spot that “folks of all religions can go to,” the president’s web site states. It provides that the location “will proceed eternally to serve all of the believers as a mosque.”