News from Europe

Turkey converts another renowned church into a mosque

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on the 21st of August, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued an official order converting the Byzantine Holy Savior Chora Church into a mosque. This presidential order was issued nearly one month after Turkey converted the Hagia Sophia Cathedral into a mosque, and nine months after the Turkish Council of State approved changing the Chora Church into a mosque.


The Chora Church was originally built in 534 AD and converted into a mosque during the Ottoman conquest. It was later converted into the Kariye Museum following World War II.

However, a lawsuit filed in 2005 challenged this decision. The lawsuit was based on the law of immovables, which states that once a building becomes a mosque, it cannot become anything else. This argument was affirmed by Turkey’s Council of State in November 2019.

A unique aspect of the Chora Church is the vast amount of medieval mosaics covering most of the church’s walls and domes which feature Biblical scenes.

According to the precedent set by Turkey, the Christian artwork of churches which have been converted into mosques are covered. How this will look for the Chora Church is unclear. During the Ottoman conquest, the artwork was hidden under a layer of plaster.

Like the Hagia Sophia, the Chora Church is registered as a UNESCO heritage site. It is unclear how UNESCO will respond to the conversion of these churches into mosques. On its website, UNESCO describes the Chora Church as one of Istanbul’s “masterpieces.”

Turkey is recommended for a special watch list by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the only member of NATO to appear on the list.



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