Controversial restoration of converted mosque nears end
The controversial restoration of the Hagia Sophia Mosque, which was opened to worship in 2013 after serving as a museum for 52 years, is about to be completed in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.
The restoration of the mosque will be completed by the end of June, but the surroundings of the complex will be open to visitors at the end of May, said İsmet Çalık, deputy regional director of Foundations in Trabzon.
Latest photos from the restoration have triggered backlash on social media, after the pictures showed concrete having covered the green space in the garden of the complex and walking paths covered in stones.
Çalık stressed that the restoration was carried out with great sensitivity under the supervision of the experts.
He also touched upon the recent public debate regarding the green area around the mosque.
“It should be noted that the existing trees are protected,” he said.
“Electricity and irrigation lines have been excavated on soil floors, which are currently used as construction sites. After the closure of these channels, greening and planting will be completed,” he said.
Explaining that the General Directorate of Foundations has decided to make some new arrangements to increase the green area, Çalık said that some of the hard floors made of natural stones will be arranged as green areas.
“Although the restoration process showed some disruption from the planned due to COVID-19 pandemic measures, the work continues in line with the restoration projects approved by the Conservation Board,” Çalık noted.
The Chamber of Architects had objected to the restoration project in the past and had claimed that the procedure was being operated improperly.
The Chamber also claimed that the historical building was prevented from being seen as a whole, and practices that covers the aesthetic values of the building were carried out during the process.
However, Trabzon Governorship’s Office denied the allegations with a statement they published on its official website.
“Walking paths, which are claimed to be made of concrete, are made of natural stone material and this material is used in restorations all over the world,” it said.
“The walking paths around Hagia Sophia are rearranged by only 90 square-meter and the claim that green areas around Hagia Sophia Mosque was destroyed through restoration is not true,” it said.
Hagia Sophia was built in Trabzon during the reign of Manuel I between 1238 and 1263.
After Mehmed II conquered the city in 1461, the church was likely converted into a mosque and its frescos were covered in whitewash.
The Hagia Sofia Mosque, which is regarded as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture, served as a museum for 52 years before it was reopened to worship to Muslims in 2013.