Will Hagia Sophia become a mosque?
In Turkey, it is expected that on the 29th of May, which marks the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the former Byzantine temple of Hagia Sophia will become a mosque. In 1935, the temple was turned from a mosque into a state museum. It would seem that this cherished compromise is coming to an end.
The expectations of the Turks refer to the statements of the press spokesman of President Recep Erdogan, Fahrettin Altuna. He believes that even though all Turkish mosques are closed due to the pandemic, they will soon be open again, and this reopening “should first apply to Hagia Sophia”.
These words have been cited in recent days by all major Turkish newspapers and TV stations. Many Turkish journalists also believe that a nationwide Muslim prayer – Namaz – will take place on the 29th of May in the former Christian temple.
The issue of transforming Hagia Sophia into a mosque has already been addressed several times. On the last occasion, just before the local government elections in 2019, President Erdogan declared that “the transformation of the Hagia Sophia museum into a lively, vibrant mosque is the primary goal for the Turkish people.”
The issue is seen very differently by the Greeks who consider themselves the direct successors of the Byzantine faith and tradition. According to Athens, the temple, and today the museum, was recognised by UNESCO as part of the world cultural heritage. Any questioning of its status is not only an offense to the feelings of Christians, but also an offense to the international community and law.