About six months will be required for preparatory work in the Hagia Sophia Cathedral to transform it into a mosque, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
On Friday, Erdogan signed a decree to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque and start Muslim services there. This became possible after the Turkish state Council annulled the decision of 1934 to turn the Hagia Sophia into a Museum.
“There are some defects inside the building, and we will be carrying out preparatory work in Hagia Sofia for six months. We will carry out these works so that Muslims and representatives of other religions come and see the best example of how we protect the heritage of our ancestors, and that the rumors are not true,” Erdogan said in an address to the nation broadcast by his press service.
Erdogan called on other countries to respect Turkey’s decision while noting that he “understands” those who do not agree with Ankara’s decisions. At the same time, Erdogan again equated criticism of Ankara in connection with this decision with attacks on the authority of Turkey.
Erdogan compared the opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque to its “rebirth” and the fact that it “threw the shackles off its feet.” The Turkish President recalled that there are 435 synagogues and temples in Turkey.
Hagia Sophia was founded by the Christian Emperor Justinian and was opened on December 27, 537. The Cathedral was the largest Church in the Christian world for more than a thousand years.
After the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans and the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the Cathedral was converted into a mosque. Still, since 1934, the building became a Museum by decree of the founder of the modern Turkish state Kemal Ataturk and was included in the UNESCO world heritage list.