Hagia Sophia to be opened for Christians?


The historic Hagia Sophia museum, which previously served as a Byzantine church and then an Ottoman mosque, could be opened to Muslim worshippers on weekdays and to Christians on Sunday, suggested Mehmet Akif Aydin, the head of the Istanbul-based Islamic Research Center (ISAM), yesterday. Aydin said that as a Muslim, he is disturbed to see Hagia Sofia still closed to worship. “I believe the continuation of the culture of coexistence at Hagia Sophia, which I hope will improve in Turkey, is more important and acceptable than it remaining a museum,” he said in an interview. “As a Muslim, I’d like it to (again) become a mosque. But if Hagia Sophia is supposed to be opened to Muslim worshippers on weekdays, then it should be opened to Christians on Sunday. Hagia Sophia was built as a place of worship. It served people in this way for more than a thousand years, both as a church and mosque. Now it is neither a church nor a mosque. It disturbs me to see that Hagia Sophia has become a museum and tourist destination.” Aydin added that if his suggestion is accepted, Hagia Sophia would stand as the first example of religions coexisting in one space.” I think it would be better for Hagia Sophia to be a place of worship for the two religions rather than remain a secular museum,” he said. “If we can re-open a church in Van, why not open Hagia Sophia to worship? This would contribute to the willingness of Muslims and Christians to coexist.” /Today’s Zaman/
Source: http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=358395

This entry was posted in Interreligious relationship, Orthodox Church and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Hagia Sophia to be opened for Christians?

  1. Brother Burrito says:

    It is, without doubt, a very beautiful ‘sacred space’.

    I only hope that the Turkish Muslim offer is genuine, and not some cynical gesture, attempting to garner sympathy, and reward.

    I have heard that the Holy Father also proposed that Jerusalem becomes a city under international ownership, so that it would no longer be a thing to be coveted by the three faiths that lay claim on it. Did I hear correct?


  2. toadspittle says:

    If you did hear correct re Jerusalem, Burro, don’t hold your breath.

    It sounds far too sensible an idea to last any longer in the Middle East than a snowball would in July.


  3. kathleen says:

    Wow! This is really an amazing piece of news….. almost too good to be true perhaps? Will the muslims allow us to have Holy Mass there on Sundays without making (at least) a fuss? Or will only general Christian prayer be permitted? Anyway, if for the rest of the week the Hagia Sophia is to be dedicated for muslim prayer, the Blessed Sacrament will obviously not be reserved in a tabernacle there.

    Turkey is a very divided place. Many Turks have a western type of tolerant attitude towards religion, others are sort of middle of the way muslims, and a large percentage are still hardline islamists. Anyone familiar with Orhan Parmuk – literary Nobel Prize winner in 2006 – whose books depict this paradox so cleverly (especially in his book “Snow” containing the classical debate on the headscarf girls) are aware of the complexity of this semi European country.


  4. shieldsheafson says:

    Too good to be true, I fear.

    Now, when will a Pope crown a Holy Roman Emperor in St Sophia again?

    That’s the question.


  5. toadspittle says:

    “Now, when will a Pope crown a Holy Roman Emperor in St Sophia again?”

    Not a thought, I must admit, that had crossed my mind until now.

    I imagine that shielsheafson considers that desirable. What are the implications as you see them? Emperor of The European Union? Crowns? Thrones?


  6. toadspittle says:

    On further reflection:

    The next ‘logical’ step must be allowing Muslims to conduct services in La Mesquita de Cordoba, or, La Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, as it is now called by some.

    Should be fun!


  7. Gertrude says:

    Now Toad, that is really going too far! Remember that St. Sophia was a Christian church before ever it became a Mosque. Perhaps La Mesquita de Cordoba was a Mosque before it was a Church though? Whilst I am fairly familiar with Spain’s Moorish past, I know little about any Mosques we might have subsequently ‘pinched’!. I suspect though that these remarks had more to do with Turkey’s request to join The EU, and guess that if it ever re-opens as a place for worship I cannot imagine that the Muslims will be too keen on any Christian participation.


  8. toadspittle says:

    On further, further reflection:

    I suspect that the reaction of traditional Catholics, here in Spain, to the Mesquita idea could best be summed up as, ‘unqualified delight!’

    As to Hagia Sofia…when do the Jews get a turn?

    That’s enough Hagia. Ed.


  9. The Raven says:

    I am afraid that I doubt that this is anything other than a bit of good publicity for ISAM: Hagia Sofia is in no way suitable for Christian religious worship on it’s current state (unless you count the sort of prayer assemblies held by evangelicals); I can’t see the locals being happy with the idea of rebuilding an altar and Iconostasis, either.

    I rather think that this is an attempt to sell the relieving of Hagia Sofia as a mosque to the secular authorities in Ankara, rather than a realistic proposal for a cohabitation.

    I also rather suspect that Toad has hit the nail on the head: if there is an offer (no matter how impractical) that allows Christian worship in Hagia Sophia, it would bolster Moslem claims to worship in Codoba Cathedral.

    One point on which I absolutely agree with the chap from ISAM is that Hagia Sophia is in a fairly ghastly state: the marbles on the walls are obscured by filth and much of the interior is thickly coated in dust (none of it is necessary, it just needs a bit of soap and water on the whole). The Turkish state doesn’t show much love for Hagia Sophia, while the Blue Mosque across the park is immaculately kept up. Provided that access to all was still freely available, I would be very happy to see Hagia Sophia return to life as a mosque (if only as a stop-gap before it is returned to the Christian Faith 😉 ).


  10. toadspittle says:

    Gertrude, I do know that the Christians built a cathedral in the middle of the mosque. If there was originally a church on the site of the mosque, I don’t know. Possible, though.


  11. kathleen says:

    Yes, there had been a church in Cordoba prior to the building of the enormous (and admittedly, very beautiful) mosque there. I did some research on this some time ago. After the expulsion of the Moors, ie the ‘reconquista’, the Christians destroyed all the mosques to rebuild churches on the same spots once again. Previously the Moors had completely erased all the churches found in the territory they had conquered in order to build mosques!

    However, even the victorious Christians, fired up with renewed zeal after their successful recovery of the land, could not bring themselves to destroy ‘La Mezquita’ in Cordoba. The solution? Build an elaborate Cathedral right bang in the middle instead!! After all, the very first building there had been a Catholic Church!


  12. shieldsheafson says:

    Dear Toad,

    Had not the Russians decided to have a civil war at the end of WWI, we may very well have had a Christian Emperor in Constantinople!

    Augustine well argues that the downfall of the Roman Empire was seeded in its attachment to paganism and only the insertion of Christianity could (and indeed did) save civilization and move it in the direction God intends.

    However, when I muse over the idea of Tony Blair as Holy Roman Emperor – perhaps it’s not such a good idea.


  13. The Raven says:


    The history here runs deep and it’s by no means a happy story: the ceremonies at Surb Khach are, as you extract points out, being held with one group of Armenian Christians to the exclusion of another; the Eastern Armenians are essentially being snubbed by the Turkish authorities. The easing of restrictions at Surb Khach also needs to be seen in the context of the calculated insult of letting the Moslem Justice & Development party say Moslem prayers at the site of one of the most important cultural monuments remaining to the Armenians (even today the Turkish authorities are working hard to wipe out any archaeological trace of the Armenians in eastern Anatolia).

    I think we should watch these events with measured cynicism: they are signs of real-politique, not of hope.


  14. What is happening in America with the infiltration of the Gulen Movement under the direction of exiled Islamic Imam Muhammed Fethullah Gulen is a crime against Christianity. Many of their Gulen Charter Schools have converted Churches or ex Catholic schools to their Gulen Science Academies. America be ALERT, here are a few converstions:
    Gateway Science Academy (St. Louis, MO) former Catholic School
    Syracuse Science Academy (Syracuse, NY) former Catholic School
    Lotus School of Excellence (Aurora, CO) former Lifebridge Church

    There are more, please get a list of these Charter schools at http://www.charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com


  15. Christian says:

    Sancta Sophia was built to be a Christian church. Its conversion to a mosque was part of a conquest and a violent religious subjugation. The only way to restore the building to its former glory and to show good will would be to remove any signs of this conquest and subjugation and let the building operate as it did before the sacking of The City and the desecration of its places of worship: let it be the most glorious church in the world again. There is a mosque straight opposite it for those that want to pray to Allah: the Blue Mosque.


  16. Pastorius says:

    The Blue Mosque of Sultanamet is beautiful. Hagia Sofia not so much but an amazing structure technically because of the huge vault or dome.

    I read that on one of the Crusades, the crusading army took donkeys in there when they sacked the city, the better to carry off the spoils.

    You know, I think of the many Catholic churches in Britain which were taken at the time of HenryVIII and also the Reformation and never returned. I have often wondered why they were not reclaimed as is suggested in answers here about other taken buildings.Legal stuff I guess.The victors write the laws.

    Isnt there a church in the Iberian peninsula which was a mosque until the expulsion of the Moors, and the people kept it as a church, as it was so nice – and if you like, ‘off the peg’. Otherwise it would have crumbled.


  17. Pastorius says:

    There was that scandal a few years ago in India when the Hindus destroyed an ancient mosque at Ayoda saying there had been a temple to Shiva or someone there before. People were killed too.


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