Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly instructed government officials to “do a study” on how to change the status of Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine-era Greek Patriarchal cathedral that was later transformed into an Ottoman mosque before becoming a museum in 1935.
“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 on Friday as telling officials of his AKP party’s central executive board earlier in the week.
“Do a study for Hagia Sophia, let’s evaluate and talk,” he reportedly told officials, warning them to “be very sensitive” about the issue.
Last Friday, Imams recited verses of the Quran inside Istanbul’s Byzantine-era cathedral on the anniversary of the city’s 1453 conquest by Ottoman troops.
The UNESCO World Heritage site was built in the 6th century as the main seat of the Greek Orthodox church. It remained so until it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of the city, then-known as Constantinople, in 1453. Turkey’s secular founder turned the structure into a museum in 1935 that attracts millions of tourists each year.