Museum or Mosque?

Posted: July 8, 2020

The Hagia Sophia is a majestic domed structure. It stands in Istanbul, Turkey. It’s been there for more than 1,400 years. The building was first a cathedral for the worship of God. Since then, it’s been turned into a mosque and now a museum. Millions of tourists visit it.

These days, leaders are arguing over the Hagia Sophia. Some want it turned back into a mosque. Others think it should stay a museum. Turkey’s Council of State is the country’s highest court. It will decide the future of the Hagia Sophia.

Byzantine Emperor Justinian built the Hagia Sophia in the year 537. Back then, it was the world’s largest building. It was the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church for centuries. Emperors were crowned in the ornate building. The Hagia Sophia remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years.

In 1453, things changed. The Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople (the city that is now Istanbul). The Ottomans built four towers called minarets onto the corners of the cathedral. The Hagia Sophia became a mosque for Islam’s religious practices. It was a mosque until 1931, when the building was closed.

The Republic of Turkey re-opened the Hagia Sophia in 1935—but not as either a cathedral or mosque. It became a museum.

Not everyone is happy that the building is still a museum. Some want it turned back into a mosque. Large crowds gather to demand the Hagia Sophia becomes a Muslim place of worship again.

People have different opinions about the future of the Hagia Sophia. Many see value in the building as a museum. They want the Hagia Sophia to promote peace and preserve history.

Could it be both a mosque and a museum? Turkish media reports say the government is considering that possibility. Sadly, no one seems to be thinking about returning it to its original purpose as a house of the one true God.

An aerial view of the World Heritage site Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey (AP Photo)