Erdogan Signs Decree Allowing Hagia Sophia to Be Used as a Mosque Again
ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree Friday ordering Hagia Sophia to be opened for Muslim prayers, an action likely to provoke international furor around a World Heritage Site cherished by Christians and Muslims alike for its religious significance, stunning structure and as a symbol of conquest.
The presidential decree came minutes after a Turkish court announced that it had revoked Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum, which for the last 80 years had made it a monument of relative harmony and a symbol of the secularism that was part of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.
Built in the sixth century as a cathedral, Hagia Sophia stands as the greatest example of Byzantine Christian architecture in the world. But it has been a source of Christian-Muslim rivalry, having stood at the center of Christendom for nearly a millennium and then, after being conquered, of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, when it was last used as a mosque.
Mr. Erdogan’s decree transferred control of the site to the Religious Affairs Directorate, sealing the removal of its museum status and allowing Hagia Sophia to become a working mosque once again.