Hagia Sophia: Turkic Fables vs. Historic Facts

By Raymond Ibrahim:

Millions of Orthodox and other Christians around the world were either shocked, angered, and/or saddened to learn recently that Turkey has just approved the transformation of the Hagia Sophia museum—which was originally built, and for a millennium functioned, as an Orthodox cathedral—into a mosque.

In a long speech rationalizing this decision, which he personally spearheaded, Turkish president Erdogan said the following:

The conquest of Istanbul [Constantinople] and the conversion of the Hagia Sophia [Greek for “Holy Wisdom”] into a mosque are among the most glorious chapters of Turkish history. On May 29, 1453, [Ottoman] Sultan Muhammad II entered the city after a long siege and headed directly to the Hagia Sophia. As the Byzantines awaited their fate, fearful and curious, inside the Hagia Sophia, Muhammad entered the Hagia Sophia, giving assurances to the people regarding their lives and freedoms…  [He then] recited the first adhan [call to prayer].  Thus he registered his conquest.  Then, in a corner of the Hagia Sophia, he performed two prostrations out of gratitude.  With this move he demonstrated that he had transformed the Hagia Sophia into a mosque….  The domes and walls of this great place of worship have resonated with prayers and takbirs [shouts of “Allahu Akbar”] for 481 years since then [until becoming a museum in 1934].

Such a pious recounting is only slightly less hagiographical than the position of leading Turkish historians, such as Professor Selim Akdogan.  Recently on Al Jazeera he insisted that Sultan Muhammad had actually “purchased” the Hagia Sophia from its conquered Christian worshippers.

Are these rosy renderings accurate? Fortunately, we need not rely on Turkic propaganda; we have primary source documents describing exactly what the Turks and Sultan Muhammad did after conquering Constantinople and its Hagia Sophia in 1453.  (All quotes in the following narrative were derived from contemporary sources, mostly eyewitnesses, as documented in chapter 7 of Sword and Scimitar.)

Once inside the city on May 29, 1453, the “enraged Turkish soldiers . . . gave no quarter”:

When they had massacred and there was no longer any resistance, they were intent on pillage and roamed through the town stealing, disrobing, pillaging, killing, raping, taking captive men, women, children, old men, young men, monks, priests, people of all sorts and conditions…  There were virgins who awoke from troubled sleep to find those brigands standing over them with bloody hands and faces full of abject fury…  [The Turks] dragged them, tore them, forced them, dishonored them, raped them at the cross-roads and made them submit to the most terrible outrages… Tender children were brutally snatched from their mothers’ breasts and girls were pitilessly given up to strange and horrible unions, and a thousand other terrible things happened. . .

Because thousands of citizens had fled to and were holed up in Hagia Sophia, the ancient basilica offered an excellent harvest of slaves, once its doors were axed down.  “One Turk would look for the captive who seemed the wealthiest, a second would prefer a pretty face among the nuns. . . . Each rapacious Turk was eager to lead his captive to a safe place, and then return to secure a second and a third prize. . . . Then long chains of captives could be seen leaving the church and its shrines, being herded along like cattle or flocks of sheep.”

The slavers sometimes fought each other to the death over “any well-formed girl,” even as many of the latter “preferred to cast themselves into the wells and drown rather than fall into the hands of the Turks.”

Having taken possession of the Hagia Sophia, one of Christendom’s greatest and oldest churches—nearly a thousand years old at the time of its capture—the invaders “engaged in every kind of vileness within it, making of it a public brothel.” On “its holy altars” they enacted “perversions with our women, virgins, and children,” including “the Grand Duke’s daughter who was quite beautiful.” She was forced to “lie on the great altar of Hagia Sophia with a crucifix under her head and then raped.”

Next “they paraded the [Hagia Sophia’s main] Crucifix in mocking procession through their camp, beating drums before it, crucifying the Christ again with spitting and blasphemies and curses. They placed a Turkish cap . . . upon His head, and jeeringly cried, ‘Behold the god of the Christians!’”

Practically all other churches in the ancient city suffered the same fate. “The crosses which had been placed on the roofs or the walls of churches were torn down and trampled.” The Eucharist was hurled to the ground; holy icons were stripped of gold, “thrown to the ground and kicked.” Bibles were stripped of their gold or silver illuminations before being burned. “Icons were without exception given to the flames.” Patriarchal vestments were placed on the haunches of dogs; priestly garments were placed on horses.

“Everywhere there was misfortune, everyone was touched by pain” when Sultan Muhammad finally made his grand entry into the city. “There were lamentations and weeping in every house, screaming in the crossroads, and sorrow in all churches; the groaning of grown men and the shrieking of women accompanied looting, enslavement, separation, and rape.”

The sultan rode to Hagia Sophia, dismounted, and went in, “marveling at the sight” of the grand basilica. After having it cleansed of its crosses, statues, and icons—Muhammad himself knocked over and trampled on its main altar—he ordered a muezzin to ascend the pulpit and sound “their detestable prayers. Then this son of iniquity, this forerunner of Antichrist, mounted upon the Holy Table to utter forth his own prayers,” thereby “turning the Great Church into a heathen shrine for his god and his Mahomet.”

To cap off his triumph, Muhammad had the “wretched citizens of Constantinople” dragged before his men during evening festivities and “ordered many of them to be hacked to pieces, for the sake of entertainment.” The rest of the city’s population—as many as forty-five thousand—were hauled off in chains to be sold as slaves.

So much for Erdogan’s claim that Sultan Muhammad had given “assurances to the people regarding their lives and freedoms,” or that the Hagia Sophia was fairly “purchased.”

At any rate, this is the history that millions of Turks extol.  In the aforementioned words of Erdogan, their president: “The conquest of Istanbul and the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque are among the most glorious chapters of Turkish history.”

If conquest, mindboggling atrocities and rapes, and the desecration of churches—all committed in the name of jihad—are “the most glorious chapters of Turkish history,” one wonders what Turkey’s future plans for glory look like?

Note: Quoted excerpts in the above narrative were taken from and are sourced in the author’s book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.  Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

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2 Responses to Hagia Sophia: Turkic Fables vs. Historic Facts

  1. kathleen says:

    Islam is a political faith system its practioners call a religion! It is not. It is from the Devil.

    The first bloodthirsty Mohammad claimed he was visited by the angel Gabriel who gave him the precepts of his heretical faith system. One possible truth and one certain lie. He might well have been visited by an “angel”, yet this was not the angel Gabriel, an angel of light… but the angel of darkness who was Lucifer/Satan in disguise, the Prince of Lies. All the atrocities and most vile evil that Islam has produced since its founding is evidence of this. Islam is the most savage, bellicose, demonic and hate-filled belief system ever invented, whose main enemy can be no other than the True Faith, Christianity.

    Countless millions of Christians have died by “the sword of Islam”, and yet our spineless leaders are allowing them to pour into (sadly) post-Christian Europe to breed and multiply more bloodthirsty Islamic terrorists. Are they really so stupid that they cannot see the threat they are exposing our descendants to? Perhaps they don’t care; most of them are far too self-centred to have children themselves. It’s a very dangerous situation they are mapping out for future generations to face.

    The beautuful Hagia Sofia, once a mighty symbol of Holy Christendom, conquered by Satan’s vicious minions for Islamics to now worship him in again.

    Could anything be more tragic?


  2. Thank you for this extremely harsh dose of truth about the history of Christians at the hands of the Turks! Erdogan is a devil and I’ve always known this about him, a real antichrist and this story coming to the fore now may be a sign or warning of things to come in the short term not the distant future! I’m leaving this lengthy comment I had to make on Christmas Day a couple of years ago because on another media platform I had been attacked by this person who wouldn’t relent on the day before and then actually on Christmas in his attacks on Christianity and my personal writings to others regarding Jesus Christ!
    Aツaz Your own words; “live the way you want and not dictate as you are just a human and not a messenger of GOD, like Jesus and Muhammad were.” Muslim hoax” I am wondering how you equate a “hoax” with facts of an Islamic Empire” Wonder NO MORE, Pay attention and learn of your blaspheming error! You have a huge inaccuracy that needs to be corrected! Saying that Jesus is another prophet like Muhammad is blasphemous. First Jesus was not a mere prophet but was God Himself and therefore the Redeemer and Savior of Mankind as he said. Muhammad was only a supposed prophet and there is irrefutable evidence in the historical text of the time he lived that points to his being an outright liar and heretic as well as a criminal and child molester along with his being a polygamist! The following statements are highly accurate and actually proven. “In 632, only months before he died, Muhammad apparently met for the first time with a Christian community as such. An official delegation of Christians, probably led by a bishop, came to Mecca from Najran in Yemen. After engaging the Christians in discussion, the Prophet is said to have realized that Christian teachings are indeed incompatible with Islam, after which the revelation followed that only Islam is acceptable to God as a religion. The Quran also says very specifically that those who refer to Jesus as God are blasphemers, and that Christians saying that Christ is the son of God is an imitation of Jews, who earlier had said that Ezra is the son of God. According to the Quran Jesus was only a servant; Jesus the son of Mary was no more than an apostle of God. Quranic verses dealing with Jesus’ death have been interpreted differently by commentators, but generally they have been taken to mean that Jesus did not die by crucifixion. For Christians the Quran has thus served as a denial of Jesus’ incarnation and death on the cross and of the reality of the Trinity.” (Oxford University Press) These two points alone put Islam and the Muslims completely at odds with Jesus Christ and all Christians and are the enemies of such! Muhammad himself began this conflict and was the spoiler and Heretic directly attacking God’s plan as foretold by all the previous prophets going all the way back to Abraham. Things have been in conflict because of Muhammad ever since and are getting worse, this will not resolve until Islam is Chastised or obliterated as a fake religion started by a false prophet and therefore heretic! In Summary Muslims are in complete denial of what Jesus Christ said and who He was which makes them Anti-Christ and supportive of the Devil and all that is unholy. Basically Muhammad started this Blasphemy back in 632 AD and outright declared War on Christendom! Islam you yourself stated is an EMPIRE which puts it in the category of being a Nation not a Religion! It is not a religion that is backed up with solid historical evidence and prophecy over time by many prophets other than what Muhammad said, he made it all up, the heretic! Islam seeks to conquer and must be stopped! And it will be! God’s avenging angels are going to obliterate Islam and any of its followers, they are minions of Satan!
    After this experience on Christmas day which I never in my entire life had any such blatant Anti-Christ in my face attack, and of all things on Christmas day activity, tells me that we are in the end times as Satan is working through all means available at a fever pitch to Attack Christianity and it’s faithful because the time is drawing near for God to return! Of course I could be off by many years but this is my hunch as there are so many signs and I was attacked by evil several years ago to stop me from being the witness and faithful one that I am for Jesus. A woman of a Christian order told me back then that there was a reason I was suffering for Jesus and it would become apparent at some point in the future why I was being prepared! Now I see in retrospect that God did want me to do something for Him and it could be just to be as I am doing or maybe something more, like a priest told me recently, wait and see!


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