For hundreds of years, Hagia Sophia is at the heart of an old ideological and political battle. Fatih Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453 and converted Hagia Sophia from a cathedral to a mosque. Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the sixth century could never imagine his great domed building as a mosque when he build it.
A church. A mosque. It’s Hagia Sophia.
Hagia Sophia is built in AD 537, during the reign of Justinian. It was the world’s largest building and an engineering marvel of its time. The church is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral and in 1453 turned into an Ottoman imperial mosque. In its 1,400 year life-span it has served as a cathedral, mosque and now a museum. When it was first constructed, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
In the early 1930s, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic, closed the mosque and turned Hagia Sophia into a museum. Since 1934, there are no religious services in the building.
UNESCO World Cultural Heritage
What does Erdoğan gain in turning Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a Mosque?
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk secularised and modernised Turkey trying to give a western culture. Today the monument has earned the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site status which means more than just an architectural masterpiece.
Hagia Sophia is now Erdogan’s latest political battleground. Turkey’s highest court convenes to decide status of the monument, but experts say a legal ruling is only symbolic. The move has been criticized as a tactic to mobilize the religious and conservative voters. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to score points with Turkish voters, but his plans have encountered considerable resistance. Now in recent months, the current Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been pushing to galvanize nationalist sentiment among the populace.