(AsiaNews) - Increasingly, rumours are circulating about the future
transformation of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia into a mosque. This is
worrisome because two other temples, also dedicated to Saint Sophia, were
recently transformed from museums into mosques. The two churches in question
are Hagia Sophia in Nicaea (Iznik), where the first ecumenical council was held,
and Hagia Sophia in Trebizond (Trabzon).
For the record,
with the fall of Constantinople (1453), all of the city's churches were
converted into mosques, but with the advent of the Turkish Republic in 1923,
the most important monuments were turned into museums.
Skylife, the free magazine handed out on the planes of Turkish
Airlines, Turkey's national carrier, gives further credence to the rumours
about the Hagia Sophia mosque.
As an important
platform to showcase the AKP government's success to the world, the magazine recently
published a long article in English and Turkish to get people accustomed to an
already in its planning phase.
cover, the aim of this idea is clearly spelled out, with an image of the Cathedral
of Saint Sophia described as the 'Mosque of the Sultans'.
The article emphasises
the transformation of the cathedral into a mosque (in 1453) and its subsequent
history. The long history of the church before the fall of Constantinople is largely
reading the article, one gets the idea that the main cathedral of Orthodox
Christianity is the highest symbol of Constantinople's conquest by the Ottomans
and a kind of reference point for the sultans. The article seeks to show that
Sophia reached its peak, glory and splendour only after the conquest of
Constantinople in 1453.
In the same
article, Prof Semavi Eyice notes that Hagia Sophia's survival was due to Sinan,
a 16th century Christian architect who converted to Islam under the
Ottomans' janissary policy.
For his part,
Prof Ahmet Akgunduz points out that Sophia is the living memory of Mehmet the
Conqueror, and therefore must be restored as soon as possible to "its"
spirituality, that of a mosque.
certain point of view, these rumours and views are not surprising, given how
things have evolved in Turkey under the AKP party and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
generally agreed that an attempt is being made to polarise Turkish society,
extolling the Ottoman past and traditions, to cover up the crisis that is
beginning to be felt in this part of the world, characterised by the Turkish
lira's fall vis-à-vis the euro and the dollar, the Syria crisis, and Erdogan's interventionist
policy after the Gezi Park standoff ahead of next year's election.
Turkish newspaper Milliyet on the
possible transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew I said that if Saint Sophia could reopen as a place of worship, it
should be as a Christian church; otherwise it should remain a museum.