The Turkish president paid a symbolic visit to the former Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on Sunday. The visit is the first since the controversial conversion of this building into a mosque last week.
It is a symbolic visit, a week after the controversial reconstruction of the former Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, in a mosque. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the religious building on Sunday, July 19, for a brief inspection of the works in the building, the presidency said.
The surprise visit of the Turkish head of state comes a few days before the first Muslim prayer in Hagia Sophia since his retraining, scheduled for Friday. It is not yet clear if Recep Tayip Erdogan will participate.
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Turkey’s Supreme Administrative Court last week rejected a 1934 government decision granting Hagia Sophia Museum status, and as soon as the decision was announced, President Erdogan announced the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
According to the Religious Authority (Diyanet), 500 people will participate in the first collective prayer on Friday inside Hagia Sophia. The Christian icons that decorate the interior of the ancient Byzantine basilica will be hidden during the prayer period according to Diyanet.
Large architectural buildings built in VIe century, the Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Istanbul. Converted to a mosque after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, it was converted into a museum in 1934 by the leader of the Young Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal, who wanted to “give it to humanity”.
The decision to return it to the Muslim cult has been criticized abroad, especially in Greece, a country that closely follows the fate of the Byzantine heritage in Turkey. Pope Francis said he was “very worried” about this conversion.