Historic Hagia Sophia in a Turkish province to be re-opened as mosque
Serdar Korucu - ISTANBUL
A ruined Hagia Sophia dating back to the 12th century in the western border province of Edirne will be renovated as a mosque, despite former statements made about the possibility of restoring it as a museum.
Following the conversion of two Hagia Sophia into museums, which were initially built as churches and then turned into mosques and, subsequently, museums, the third Hagia Sophia in Edirne’s Enez district will be reconverted into a mosque, according to Foundations General Director Adnan Ertem, despite previous debates on turning it into a museum after reconstruction.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Ertem said the Edirne Culture Assets Protection Regional Board approved the reconstruction project of the structure, which he called a “mosque” during the interview.
Ertem said the project would start as soon as possible, adding that the Hagia Sophia has been taken into the Foundations General Directorate’s investment program.
Explaining why it should be re-opened as a mosque, Erdem said the building was a “sanctuary that was consecrated as a mosque.”
“It is a foundation that can be put into service in line with its foundational charter. Thus its function will be preserved,” said Ertem.
Enez’s Hagia Sophia is located inside the ancient city of Ainos and although there are no records, it is thought to date back to the 12th century. It is located along the border with Greece and stationed on top of a hill seen from all around.
The district governor of Enez, Fatih Baysal, said in 2012 the usage of the structure as a mosque or not was a matter to be decided after the renovation.
“But even if it is used as a museum or a mosque, this place really needs to be [opened],” said Baysal.
Enez Mayor Abdullah Bostancı said the structure would have similar properties to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
The main Hagia Sophia, which has been a museum since 1935, was built in the fourth century and converted into a mosque, when Mehmet the Conqueror took Istanbul in 1453.
The Hagia Sophia in Turkey’s western district of İznik, which was initially constructed as a church in the eighth century and turned into a mosque when the city was conquered by the Ottomans in the 14th century, became a museum in the Turkish Republic. The building was later converted into a mosque in November 2011.
Another Hagia Sophia church, located in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, had been a mosque for many years after the conquest of the city and registered as a mosque in its land title. It was then turned into a museum and transferred to the Culture and Tourism Ministry. It was retransferred to the Trabzon Regional Directorate of Foundations through a court decision and reopened for Muslim worship in July 2013.
After the conversion from museum to mosque, 33 historic artifacts from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras in the garden of Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia were moved to the Trabzon Museum in January 2014.