A building that is revered by both Christians and Muslims that has operated as a museum for 86 years has been converted into a mosque on orders of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Hagia Sophia was originally built as a Christian church in 537 A.D. After Constantinople fell to Ottoman Turk Muslim armies in 1453, it became a mosque. In 1935 it was turned into a museum during the rule of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who sought to secularize Turkey.
Erdogan’s decision to return the building to religious use was controversial.
“Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said. “Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue.”