Istanbul: Hagia Sophia mosaics hidden from visitors
by Marian Demir

The government had promised that the mosaics, icons and frescoes would be visible outside of Islamic prayer hours. At present, the Byzantine sacred building is under the authority of the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The mosaics and frescoes from the 9th and 10th centuries that adorn Hagia Sophia are still covered and have been hidden from visitors for almost three weeks.

On July 24, the authorities turned the Christian church into a mosque, open to Islamic prayer. At the same time, they had pledged that its images and icons would be visible to visitors, covered with retractable curtains only during the Islamic prayer.

In reality, people who wanted to see the jewels of Byzantine art have found themselves in front of white sheets concealing the images.

The reason lies in the fact that in its transition from museum to mosque, Hagia Sophia was placed under the Directorate of Religious Affairs and is no longer - as before - under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, although the latter’s employees continue to work in the building.

“The mosaics are completely covered now. We do not know when it will open,” said some of Ministry employees speaking to the BirGün newspaper.

“The mosaics are not exhibited outside of prayer times because they are covered. Reportedly, a retractable system was supposed to be put in place, but we have no information about when that will be done.”