Muslim worshipers can pray in the ancient basilica of Saint Sophia in Istanbul this Friday after the museum has been converted into a mosque by a decree by the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has received international criticism.
President Erdogan and his conservative Muslim allies will participate in the prayer in the temple, which was built in 537 by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I and was the largest church in the Christian community at the time.
The temple was converted into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, in 1453 by the decision of Mehmet II, known as “The Conqueror”. In 1934, the status of Hagia Sophia was changed to the status of Musueo by decree from Mustafá Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Two signatures have determined the future of the temple: On July 10, the State Council, the highest administrative court, overturned the decree signed by Ataturk, which Hagia Sophia has preserved as a museum for 86 years. Hours later, Erdogan signed an order that turned the temple into a mosque, making “the dream of his youth” come true, the president said.