Hagia Sophia marks third anniversary of reopening as a mosque

Hagia Sophia. Pic: AA
One of the world’s greatest buildings – the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul – has marked the third anniversary of its reopening as a mosque.
Ali Erbas, the head of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), led fajr prayer at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque this morning.
Calling the reopening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque as “one of the happiest days” of his life, Erbas said: “Three years ago, on July 24, 2020, 86 years of longing came to an end.
“With the decision of our president, Hagia Sophia was reopened for worship,” he recalled, adding that a total of 21 million people have visited the historical site since.
Noting that the Hagia Sophia is the most important symbol of the conquest of Istanbul, Erbas said he wishes that millions of people worship in there until the end of time.

Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conquerer performed his first Friday prayer after conquering Istanbul in 1453.

The Hagia Sophia’s history spans over 1,500 years, and it has served various roles throughout the ages, from a church to a mosque and eventually a museum.

The construction of the Hagia Sophia began in the year 532 CE during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. It was designed by the architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles and was completed in just five years, opening its doors to the public in 537 CE. The name “Hagia Sophia” means “Holy Wisdom” in Greek and was dedicated to the Wisdom of God.

The Hagia Sophia served as the principal church of the Byzantine Empire and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, playing a significant role in the religious and political life of the empire. Its grand architecture and innovative engineering, including a massive dome, vaulted ceilings, and elaborate mosaics, made it an architectural marvel of its time.

In 1453, during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, the Hagia Sophia faced a significant transformation. Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul), the building was converted into a mosque. The Ottomans added Islamic architectural elements, such as minarets, a mihrab and a minbar while preserving much of the original Byzantine structure.

The Hagia Sophia then served as a mosque for nearly 500 years, becoming one of the most important religious and cultural centres in the Ottoman Empire.

But after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, there was a significant push towards secularisation. Thus, in 1935, the Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum as part of Atatürk’s efforts to transform Turkey into a more secular state.

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However, on July 10, 2020, the Turkish Council of State issued a ruling that the Hagia Sophia’s conversion to a museum in 1935 was illegal. Subsequently, on July 24, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a decree that converted the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

This decision sparked various reactions from around the world, with some countries expressing concerns about the preservation of its cultural and historical significance.


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