Greek businessman offers to build new mosque in return for Trabzon Hagia Sophia
Yorgo Kirbaki – ATHENSA Greek-Russian businessman with roots in Turkey’s Black Sea region has offered to cover all the costs of the construction of a mosque in Trabzon in exchange for the Fener Orthodox Greek Patriarchate regaining control of the province’s Hagia Sophia, a church-turned-mosque.
Ivan Savvidis, a Greek-Russian businessman and politician, said he was “ready to have a new mosque constructed in Trabzon and hand it to the city’s municipality, in return for making the Hagia Sophia [in Trabzon] a church once again,” during an interview with Greek state broadcaster ET-3.
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.
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.
Savvidis attended a liturgy held at Sümela Monastery in the mountains above Trabzon for the Assumption of Mary, a Christian feast that is marked on Aug. 15. After a hiatus of 88 years, Turkish officials allowed the monastery to reopen for liturgy on Aug. 15, 2010, in what has now become a yearly tradition.
Another Hagia Sophia in the western district of İznik, which was initially constructed as a church in the eighth century and converted into a mosque when the city was conquered by the Ottomans in the 14th century, became a museum in the modern Turkish Republic. The building was later converted into a mosque in November 2011.