Hagia Sophia a mosque again

This item appears on page 4 of the September 2020 issue.

In Istanbul, Turkey, Hagia Sophia, a museum since 1934, was declared to be an active mosque on July 10. The first Friday prayers in 86 years were held in the building on July 24. Despite the conversion, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdog˘an has promised that the building will remain open to visitors of all faiths. During Islamic services, the Byzantine frescoes and icons will be covered, as human images are prohibited in Islam.

Originally built in the 6th century as a Byzantine church — at the time the largest church in the world — it was converted to a mosque when Istanbul (then Constantinople) fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. It was made a museum by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, who wanted a more secular country.