The iconic Hagia Sophia Museum of Istanbul, Turkey has been declared a mosque. The declaration was made by Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.
The announcement came hours after the top administrative court of Turkey passed a verdict saying that the decision of modern Turkey’s statesman Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to convert the then mosque into a museum was illegal.
The announcement came despite international appeals not do to so, as the monument was revered by the Christians and Muslims alike.
Several Christian groups had warned that the move may create inter-faith rift. However, Erdogan’s office has meanwhile announced that the structure will still be open to people of all faith.
President Erdogan had earlier proposed reconverting the museum into a place of worship.
The historical structure, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was once an imposing cathedral of the Eastern Roman Empire (aka Byzantine Empire). It was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453.
Later, when Turkey was transformed into a modern nation under the umbrella of secularism in the early 20th century, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk had it converted into a museum, and a site of common historical value for both Christians and Muslims.