Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan late Tuesday suggested turning Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, originally a Byzantine Christian cathedral, into a mosque.
Addressing a rally in the Black Sea city of Trabzon ahead of local elections on March 31, Erdogan reportedly said, “After the elections, we shall reclaim the Hagia Sophia. What does this mean? We shall lift Hagia Sophia’s museum status and convert it into a mosque.”
The Turkish strongman made a similar suggestion during a televised interview on Sunday, prompting a condemnation from Athens.
Originally built in the 6th century, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Greek Orthodox church. It was turned into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul – then Constantinople – in 1453.
Hagia Sophia became a museum after the formation of modern secular Turkey in 1923. It is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.