Istanbul’s Kariye Camii Museum (monastery of Christ the Saviour in Chora) to become a mosque
by NAT da Polis

Erdoğan's decree was published in today’s Official Gazette. This is the same fate as Hagia Sophia. The monastery in Chora (Karye) is a rare example of Byzantine art, part of the world’s cultural heritage even for Turkish historians. The arrogant ambitions of the Turkish president mix politics, ideology and culture. The West prefers to look elsewhere and trade.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued the order to transform the splendid Kariye Camii museum, also known as the Monastery of the Holy Saviour in Chora, into a mosque. His decision was published today in the Official Gazette.

Erdoğan's order is based on a ruling by the State Council in November 2019 according to which using the building as a museum was "against the law".

Last May, the same Council gave Erdoğan the greenlight to turn the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque.

The Kariye Camii Museum is located in Fatih, Istanbul’s most populous and religiously conservative district.

With this decision, the museum now comes under the control of the powerful Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which will carry out the necessary work to transform it into a mosque.

The original monastery was built in 534 AD, during the early Byzantine period. The internal walls, pillars and domes are entirely covered with mosaics and frescoes that date back to the 11th century.

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans (1453), the monastery, like the Basilica of Hagia Sophia, was seized and turned into a mosque in 1511. In 1945, Turkey’s cabinet converted the mosque into a museum.

Turning the museum into a mosque is an insult to the cultural heritage of humanity, even more than in the case of Hagia Sophia. The Chora monastery is in fact one of the rarest examples of Byzantine art given its mosaics and frescoes, a landmark of humanity’s cultural heritage, as the great Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı put it.

Some of its splendid frescoes and mosaics, which had been covered with plaster when it became a mosque in the 16th century, were restored by 1958, after careful work by an US archaeological school, with the contribution of some Turkish scholars.

Some diplomats note that Erdoğan's decision reflects his arrogant ambitions, largely for domestic consumption, which mix politics, ideology and culture.

Unfortunately, this has been met by the tolerance of the “polite” leaders of Western powers, driven more by economic and financial interests than human dignity.

Some observers cite, for example, the presence of 6,000 German and other foreign businesses in Turkey, as well as US President Donald Trump who has praised Erdoğan’s “leadership”. For them, “May Allah save Turkey!"