Abandoned church-mosque in Istanbul’s old city turned into makeshift refuge
Serdar KORUCU ISTANBUL / Radikal
The structure was built as a church by Istanbul’s Byzantine rulers around 800 years ago, but was converted into a mosque at the time of Fatih Sultan Mehmet.The church-mosque of Vefa, also known as the Molla Gürani mosque, has become the latest victim of the authorities’ failure to preserve historical buildings in Istanbul’s old city, as the structure was badly worn down by families taking refuge inside the ramshackle complex.
The Byzantine structure, located in the Vefa neighborhood within the UNESCO world heritage site of the old city, has decayed and been abandoned, despite an initiative announced in 2010 for the building’s restoration.
According to daily Radikal, people occupying the mosque have converted the interior of the structure into a makeshift home, at the same time erasing hundreds of years of history.
Many of the columns and adornments have been covered by either coats of plaster and paint or carpets, while cement has been poured into doorways. The floor of a room that was historically used by the priests has been covered with tiles in order to be used as a restroom.
The report also says a prefabricated house has been built in the vestibule area of the church, while the second floor was converted so as to allow another family to live there. Another shanty construction was built in the structure’s garden.
The structure was built as a church by Istanbul’s Byzantine rulers around 800 years ago, but was converted into a mosque at the time of Fatih Sultan Mehmet and named after the Sultan’s preceptor, Molla Gürani.
Turkey’s Directorate of Foundations had announced a restoration project for 2011, which eventually never materialized.
Historian İlber Ortaylı has argued that the structure should be converted into a museum, like the Hagia Sophia, which is also a church-mosque.
“It contains very important mosaics, all decayed ... The building should be taken under protection urgently,” Ortaylı told daily Radikal.