ANKARA — After he repeatedly said he wants to transform the revered ancient Greek church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople into a mosque, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly told government officials to stud how to change the status.
The Byzantine-era Greek Patriarchal cathedral was turned into a mosque after Constantinople fell to Turkish invaders in 1453 and became a museum in 1935 but Erdogan is keen on making it a mosque again.
“Hagia Sophia can continue to be visited by tourists as a mosque, as is Sultanahmet (the Blue Mosque.) Our nation should decide on this,” Erdogan was quoted by Turkey’s Hurriyet telling officials of his AKP party’s central executive board.
“Do a study for Hagia Sophia, let’s evaluate and talk,” he reportedly told officials, warning them to “be very sensitive” about the issue without clarifying what that meant although his intentions are well known.
On May 29, Imams recited verses of the Koran inside the cathedral to mark the anniversary of the conquest of the city, now called Istanbul by the restse of the world but still Constantinople by Greece.
The UNESCO World Heritage site was built in the 6th century as the main seat of the Greek Orthodox church and is one of the world's most popular tourist attractions, drawing about three million visitors annually.