Turkey converts Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains I and II – International Affairs; World History; Culture
- Recently, Turkey’s highest court allowed for the conversion of the nearly 1,500 year-old Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.
- The centuries-old structure, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was originally a cathedral in the Byzantine empire before it was turned into a mosque in 1453, when Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet II’s Ottoman forces.
- In the 1930s, however, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, shut down the mosque and turned it into a museum in an attempt to make the country more secular.
- The change in status of the Hagia Sophia comes after repeated warnings from the international community, including UNESCO, to ensure that Turkey did not proceed with these plans.
History: Hagia Sophia
- The construction of this iconic structure in Istanbul started in 532 AD during the reign of Justinian I, the ruler of the Byzantine Empire, when the city was known as Constantinople. The structure was originally built to become the seat of the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church and remained so for approximately 900 years.
- In 1453, when Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet II’s Ottoman forces, the Hagia Sophia was ransacked by the invading forces and turned into a mosque shortly after. The structure of the monument was then subjected to several interior and exterior changes where Orthodox symbols were removed or plastered upon and minarets were added to the exterior of the structure. For a long time, the Hagia Sophia was Istanbul’s most important mosque.
- In 1934, Atartuk ordered that the Hagia Sophia be converted into a museum. It opened to the public in 1935.