Turkey’s Erdogan visits Hagia Sophia after reconversion to mosque

  • Some 500 worshippers are set to attend Muslim prayers at the UNESCO World Heritage site on Friday.
  • The mosaics would be concealed with either lasers or curtains when the first prayers are held.
  • Some mosaics of Gabriel and Marry that are positioned in the direction of Kaaba, where Muslims face during prayer, would be covered with curtains.
Turkey's Erdogan visits Hagia Sophia after reconversion to mosque
image via flickr

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a surprise visit to Hagia Sophia on Sunday just days before the first Muslim prayer is expected to be held at Istanbul’s cultural site since it was converted back to a mosque last week.

In his quick visit billed as an inspection, Erdogan took stock of the conversion work. On Sunday, the presidential office released images showing scaffolding inside the building. Turkey’s religious directorate, the Diyanet, said that the Christian signs in the building would be unlit and curtained off through appropriate means during the prayer time.

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Last week, the authorities said that the mosaics would be concealed with either lasers or curtains when the first prayers are held. While talking to a local news channel, the spokesperson of the presidential office said that some mosaics of Gabriel and Marry that are positioned in the direction of Kaaba, where Muslims face during prayer, would be covered with curtains.

However, he added that the mosaics of Jesus and other Christian figures did not pose any obstacle in Muslim prayers because they are not in the direction of Qibla. The spokesperson did not add whether they would remain uncovered all the time.

Authorities have also said that except for prayers’ timings, Hagia Sophia will be open to all tourists and visitors, and all mosaics will be uncovered. The country’s top court paved the way for the conversion of the monument, in a decision to revoke the 1934 cabinet decision to convert it into a museum.

Since the inauguration as a museum in 1935, the sixth-century building had been open to all the visitors regardless of their faith. The religious authority said that the historic building would continue to be open to all tourists outside the prayer hours.

During the rule of the Byzantine Empire, the UNESCO World Heritage site was built as a cathedral, but after the conquest of the Ottoman Empire in 1453, it was converted into a mosque.  However, under modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it was designated as a museum in a key reform of the post-ottoman authorities.

Last year, Erdogan said that converting it into a museum had been a mistake. Meanwhile, the conversion has sparked anger among millions of Christians and tensions between historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Ankara and Athens.

About News Team

Hi, I'm Alex Perez, an experienced writer with a focus on lifestyle and culture news. From food and fashion to travel and entertainment, I love exploring the latest trends and sharing my insights with readers. I also have a strong interest in world news and business, and enjoy covering breaking stories and events.

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