Turkey Converts Another Former Istanbul Church into Mosque

Istanbul, MINA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday ordered another ancient Orthodox church that became a mosque and then a popular Istanbul museum to be turned back into a place of Muslim worship.

The decision to transform the Kariye Museum into a mosque came just a month after a similarly controversial conversion for the UNESCO World Heritage-recognized Hagia Sophia, Arab News reported.

The 1,000-year-old building’s history closely mirrors that of the Hagia Sophia — its bigger neighbor on the historic western bank of the Golden Horn on the European side of Istanbul.

The Holy Savior in Chora was a medieval Byzantine church decorated with 14th-century frescoes of the Last Judgment that remain treasured in the Christian world.

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

It became the Kariye Museum after World War II as Turkey pushed ahead with the creation of a more secular new republic out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

A group of American art historians then helped restore the original church’s mosaics and opened them up for public display in 1958.

But Erdogan has in the past few years placed a greater emphasis on the battles that resulted in the defeat of Byzantium by the Ottomans.

Turkey’s top administrative court approved the museum’s conversion into a mosque in November.

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An AFP reporter who visited the site shortly after Erdogan’s decree was published said the museum remained open to visitors — unlike the Hagia Sophia which was shut for conversion right away.(T/R3/RE1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)