It seems inevitable that this cherished landmark — originally a Byzantine Christian cathedral — will now become a mosque.
From The New York Times:
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree Friday ordering Hagia Sophia to be opened for Muslim prayers, an action likely to provoke international furor around a World Heritage Site cherished by Christians and Muslims alike for its religious significance, stunning structure and as a symbol of conquest.
The presidential decree came minutes after a Turkish court announced that it had revoked Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum, which for the last 80 years had made it a monument of relative harmony and a symbol of the secularism that was part of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.
Built in the sixth century as a cathedral, Hagia Sophia stands as the greatest example of Byzantine Christian architecture in the world. But it has been a source of Christian-Muslim rivalry, having stood at the center of Christendom for nearly a millennium and then, after being conquered, of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, when it was last used as a mosque.
Mr. Erdogan’s decree transferred control of the site to the Religious Affairs Directorate, sealing the removal of its museum status and allowing Hagia Sophia to become a working mosque once again.
It was a decision long sought by conservative Muslims in Turkey and beyond, but one which opponents say Mr. Erdogan intends to stir his nationalist and religious base as his popularity wanes after 18 years atop Turkish politics.
In a post on Twitter that included a copy of the decree, Mr. Erdogan simply wrote “Hayirli olsun,’’ or “Congratulations.”
Immediately after the announcement a small crowd gathered outside Hagia Sophia, some of them chanting “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.” Television footage showed police placing barriers across the entrance to the monument.