Church-turned mosque closed in Venice

Church-turned mosque closed in Venice

Church-turned mosque closed in Venice A Swiss-Icelandic artist’s mosque installation, which was placed in the former Catholic church of Santa Maria dell’Abbazia della Misericordia as part of Iceland’s pavilion at the 56th Biennale art fair in Venice, has been closed after mounting opposition against the project. 

Swiss artist Christoph Büchel’s installation, titled “The Mosque: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice,” was intended to promote religious tolerance. However, city authorities expressed reservations, citing among other things the risk of the building being attacked by anti-Muslim elements or, on the other side of the spectrum, Islamist radicals.

It also sparked controversy when Muslims in the city started praying in the mosque even though it was a work of art. 

Officials said the law was violated by the use of the venue for religious activities and gave the Icelandic organizers until May 20 to close it. 

Even though the organizers presented documents that the venue was not a church, the local administration canceled the certificate of the pavilion on May 21.