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Erdogan opens former church to Muslim worshippers

By AFP

May 6, 2024 07:16 PM


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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday opened for worship a mosque converted from an ancient Orthodox church in Istanbul, four years after he ordered its transformation.

In 2020, Erdogan ordered the building -- which was a Byzantine church, then a mosque and then a museum -- to be converted into a Muslim place of worship one month after a similarly controversial ruling on the UNESCO-protected Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul's Hagia Sophia is an ancient cathedral that was converted into a mosque and then a museum, before becoming a mosque again.

Both changes show Erdogan's efforts to galvanise his more conservative and nationalist supporters.

But they add to Turkey's problems with prelates in both the Orthodox and Catholic churches.

Erdogan on Monday remotely opened Kariye Mosque for worship after four years of restoration, during a ceremony at the presidential palace in the capital, Ankara.

The decision in 2020 to convert it drew an angry response from neighbouring Greece, which called the move "yet another provocation against religious persons everywhere".

The Holy Saviour in Chora was a Byzantine church decorated with 14th-century frescoes of the Last Judgement that are still treasured by Christians.

The church was converted into Kariye Mosque half a century after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks.

It became the Kariye Museum after World War II, when Turkey sought to create a more secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

A group of art historians from the United States helped restore the original church's mosaics and they were put on public display in 1958.

Hagia Sophia -- once the seat of Eastern Christianity -- was also converted into a mosque by the Ottomans.

Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey after World War I, turned the UNESCO World Heritage site into a museum in a bid to promote religious neutrality.

Nearly 100 years later, Erdogan, whose ruling AKP party has Islamic roots, turned it back into a Muslim place of worship.

 

 

 


AFP


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