2020 23rd of July
official inauguration of
Hagia Sophia as a Mosque
The decision of the Turkish Government to convert the Museum of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to mosque constitutes a direct offense to fundamental European ideas and values, such as religious and ideological tolerance as well as the perception of cultural heritage as a shared resource and a common good.
As it is well known, Hagia Sophia has been constructed in transitional times, in the last period during which the unity of Roman Empire had been re-instated, under Justinian. It is an intellectual and spiritual Masterpiece, incorporating the achievements of the Science and Engineering of the Greek and Roman World and, at the same time, the driving force of the new religion of the forthcoming era. It had been miraculously preserved through the centuries, conserving the original, of the 6th c., pavement and marble revetment of the walls as well as precious mosaics -artistic masterpieces- of various subsequent periods. The recent decision of the Turkish Government to convert this unique monument into a mosque puts at risk not only its intangible, inherent, values but also its physical integrity by its everyday dense use.
This is certain, as the recent modification of the status of other byzantine churches from museums to mosques has proved; namely that of Hagia Sophia in Trapzond, a byzantine church of the middle of the 13th c. , which has been profoundly altered after its functioning as a mosque since 2013 (see photos in the web).
The decision of the Turkish Government has been unanimously condemned by international organizations, eminent scholars and the civil society all over the world, without, till now, any effect. Let’s keep trying for the overthrow of that decision. The use of Hagia Sophia as a Museum is the only compatible with its status as World Heritage Monument as well as with European values and perceptions concerning the cultural heritage.
Prof. Dr. Fani Mallouchou-Tufano
Deputy Chair of the Committee for the Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments