In open letter, academics warn over status of Hagia Sophia; Turkey

Hagia Sophia News

Hagia Sophia News

Many researchers of Byzantine and Ottoman craftsmanship and culture have marked an open letter to communicate their anxiety in front of a choice Thursday by the Turkish Council of State with respect to the status of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

In the letter, the scholastics caution against the “thoughtless treatment” of the city’s previous Byzantine church building, saying that “chronicled and archeological proof could be harmed, and masterpieces hid.”

“Hagia Sophia is too wonderful a landmark and too valuable a chronicled archive to fill in as a pawn in local governmental issues,” they state.


The following is the full letter.

Dear associates,

On July 2, the Turkish Council of State will report a choice in regards to the status of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Numerous scholarly associations have communicated concern with respect to this news.

As researchers of Byzantine and Ottoman craftsmanship and culture, we compose now, not to fight an activity that has not yet been taken, however to explain the worry that we share, based on the data as of now accessible to us.


As we would like to think, the focal inquiry isn’t, “Ought to Hagia Sophia be a gallery or a mosque?” The focal inquiry is fairly, “How might we best think about Hagia Sophia?” at the end of the day, we draw a differentiation among capacity and stewardship.

We are worried that the progressing argument about capacity thwarts the advancement of an administration system proportionate to the size of the difficulties: safeguarding of the chronicled texture and proceeded with perceivability of the centerpieces everything being equal, Byzantine and Ottoman; mindful administration of mass the travel industry; and insurance against the danger of tremor.

From 1453 until 1934, Hagia Sophia filled in as a congregational mosque, and was controlled by a devout gift (vakıf). After the statement of the Turkish Republic (1923), purview over every single such element was accepted by another administration service, the Directorate General of Foundations.


Hagia Sophia proceeded being used as a mosque all through the 1920s, yet in 1931 restorers started to uncover the mosaics of the inside. The terrific achievement of their work persuaded the Turkish Council of Ministers (1934) to move ward over the structure from the Directorate General of Foundations to the Ministry of Education.

This adjustment in locale harmonized with an adjustment in work, through which the structure was shut to revere. Both locale and capacity, be that as it may, have kept on developing.

Hagia Sophia is today controlled by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as the authoritative replacement to the Ministry of Education. Simultaneously, the capacity of the structure has extended to incorporate progressively obvious articulations of Muslim devotion.


Since 1991, there has been a room devoted to Muslim petition inside the complex. Since 2016, Hagia Sophia has been served by a full-time imam, the call to petition has sounded from the minarets, and Qur’anic readings and supplications have occurred inside during the yearly perception of Laylat al-Qadr.

In this way, from a specific perspective, Hagia Sophia is as of now working as both a historical center and a mosque. To the extent we know, the development of this last capacity has not brought about harm to the structure or obstacle of its gems. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism stays a dependable steward.

Simultaneously, unmistakable voices in Turkey have since quite a while ago contended that the exchange of locale to the Ministry was unlawful. They guarantee that the Turkish state didn’t reserve the privilege to “secularize” Hagia Sophia in 1934, since devout blessings are unending and sacred. As indicated by this contention, the legitimate overseer of the structure is the Directorate General of Foundations.


Lately, the Directorate General has expected control of other Byzantine landmarks and revived them to Muslim love. One noticeable model is another Hagia Sophia, this one in Trabzon on the Black Sea, whose legitimate organization has been challenged since 2013.

A push to re-open the structure to Muslim supplication included development of an intricate arrangement of screens to cloud the Byzantine frescoes.

Less exposed, however of all the more enduring mischief, was the battle of rebuilding completed by the Directorate General on Hagia Sophia in Vize (Thrace) in 2006, which brought about considerable harm to the verifiable texture of the structure.


Our anxiety is that the current clash, up to this point just a “war of words,” could bring about likewise reckless treatment of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul: that chronicled and archeological proof could be harmed, and centerpieces disguised.

Hagia Sophia is too lovely a landmark and too valuable a verifiable archive to fill in as a pawn in territorial legislative issues.

Progressive Byzantine, Ottoman, and Turkish governments have ensured it against the attacks of time and hence kept up its hugeness for themselves, yet additionally for those to come later on – including we all.


It involves indispensable worry to us as researchers of Byzantine and Ottoman workmanship and culture that the momentum Turkish government proceed with this convention of capable stewardship.

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