Frescoes, mosaics in Hagia Sophia of Trabzon to be revealed

Frescoes, mosaics in Hagia Sophia of Trabzon to be revealed

TRABZON – Doğan News Agency
Frescoes, mosaics in Hagia Sophia of Trabzon to be revealed

A church converted into a mosque in the Black Sea province of Trabzon will be renovated to reveal the frescoes and mosaics covered behind wooden shutters.

The move is part of efforts undertaken by authorities to increase the number of sites local and foreign tourists can visit in the province.

Trabzon Provincial Director of Culture and Tourism Ali Ayvazoğlu said the works to be undertaken at the Hagia Sophia Mosque will be very similar to the ongoing restoration works in the Fatih Mosque, whose newly discovered ancient floor mosaics are covered with glass.

“The restoration of the Fatih Mosque [in Trabzon] is about to be completed. It will be open [for visits] in a couple of months. The [1,600-year-old] mosaics on its floor have been unearthed. The regional directorate for foundations was going to cover them [mosaics] with a wooden structure, but we proposed for them to be covered in glass. We said, ‘Let us acquire one more place for our visitors [to the province] to visit and see the mosaics’… The same will also happen in Hagia Sophia,” Ayvazoğlu said.

“The structure we see right now in Hagia Sophia will change. The wooden structure there will be removed. That place will be completely covered with glass,” Ayvazoğlu said, adding that the place where prayers are currently performed will be opened for tourist visitation, with another space allocated for worshipping.

The Hagia Sophia Mosque in Trabzon was originally built as a church in the 13th century but was converted into a mosque after the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Empire in 1461. Serving as a mosque for centuries, the building was reopened as a museum in 1964 after undergoing restoration and was 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.

The shop owners around the mosque complain about the fall in the number of foreign tourists especially after the Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque.

One of these local shop owners said the place would receive a lot of tourists before 2013 when it was a museum.

“Our sales were good as well. When this place was converted to a mosque, tourists stopped coming. This was also an address for tour buses. If this place is converted into a museum again, the number of visitors coming to our province will increase,” Sonat Kaynar said.

Another shop owner, Muhammet Demeli, said when it was decided for the Hagia Sophia to be turned into a mosque, no local opinion, including theirs, was taken.

“Is it better now? We have to discuss this. I have been a shop owner here for the last 31 years. Before, at least 50 tour buses would come here. Now, only domestic tourists come here, but would it be bad if foreign tourists also came? Since its conversion into a mosque, foreign tourists are not coming. There is still interest from domestic tourists, but we have lost the interest of foreign tourists,” Demeli said.