Erdogan visits Hagia Sophia on eve of first Friday prayers after conversion from museum

WION Web Team
Istanbul, Turkey Published: Jul 24, 2020, 08:37 AM(IST)

Erdogan visits Hagia Sophia on eve of first Friday prayers after conversion from museum Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

A top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century monument's status as a museum on July 10 and Erdogan then ordered the building to reopen for Muslim worship, deeply angering the Christian community and further straining relations with NATO ally Greece.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visited Istanbul's Hagia Sophia on Thursday (July 23) to inspect the final preparations for Muslim Friday prayers in the historic building on July 24.

He will take part in Friday's prayers at Hagia Sophia which are the first since the Istanbul landmark was reconverted to a mosque despite international condemnation.

Hagia Sophia served as a Christian Byzantine cathedral for 900 years before it was seized by Ottoman conquerors and converted to a mosque. Muslims prayed there until 1934 when it became a museum.

Also see: All you want to know about Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia's history

A top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century monument's status as a museum on July 10 and Erdogan then ordered the building to reopen for Muslim worship, deeply angering the Christian community and further straining relations with NATO ally Greece.

The decision unleashed a torrent of criticism from church leaders, who said the conversion to exclusively Muslim worship risked deepening religious divisions. Turkey says the site will remain open for visitors and its Christian artworks protected.

Christian frescoes and the glittering mosaics adorning the cavernous dome and central hall will be concealed by curtains during Muslim prayer times, but remain on display for the rest of the time.

The head of Turkey's religious affairs directorate, Ali Erbas, said on Wednesday that up to 1,000 people could take part in the Friday prayer, which will be preceded by a Koran recital.

Leaders and officials from several Muslim-majority countries were invited, including Qatar and Azerbaijan, Turkish media reported.

Nearly 20,000 security forces will be in the area to ensure the first prayer takes place without incident.

Read in App