Turkey’s pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper on Tuesday is said to have reported that an impending ruling by the country’s Council of State could pave the way for museums that operated as mosques during Ottoman times to become Muslim places of worship once more.
According to Greek media, Yeni Safak said that a decision is expected from Turkey’s highest administrative court on whether the Chora Museum, formerly the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior, in the Edirnekapi neighborhood of Istanbul, can be used as a mosque.
A positive decision from the court could pave the way for a similar decision on the Greek Orthodox cathedral of Hagia Sophia, Greek media reported the Turkish newspaper as adding.
Ankara has threatened to reconvert the Byzantine-era cathedral into a mosque on several occasions, most recently in March when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that it was possible to “change its name from museum to Hagia Sophia Mosque.”
Erdogan’s suggestion drew ire in Greece as the cathedral, originally built in the 6th century, was 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.
Hagia Sophia is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.