DALLAS February 5, 2013 – In a surpise move, a commission of the Turkish Parliament last week accepted a petition from a Turkish citizen to reopen the Hagia Sophia as a place of worship for Muslims.
The center of Orthodox worship in the Eastern Roman Empire for over a thousand years (360 – 1453), the Church of the Holy Wisdom, more commonly known by its Greek name Hagia Sophia, has been a museum since 1935 and draws millions of visitors every year. After the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, it became the first imperial mosque of the Ottoman Empire, and the call to prayer sounded from its minarets for almost 500 years.
The decision by Atatürk’s government to designate the building as a museum was an obvious attempt at reconciliation between the Turks and Greeks, who had been feuding for centuries.
The fact that the Turkish Parliament would consider opening the building for use as a mosque may reopen old wounds. The former church still prominently features six gigantic green medallions with the names of Allah, the Prophet, and Islam’s first four caliphs.