Ankara: The world-famous Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul – originally founded as a cathedral – has been turned back into a mosque, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the decision.
The Hagia Sophia, a major draw for tourists, has a long and complicated history. The architectural marvel was built as a church by the Byzantines in the 6th century and then converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
In 1934, Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s Cabinet decreed that it be turned into a museum. It is widely regarded as a symbol of peaceful religious coexistence.
Defending the move, a Turkish official stressed that tourists could still visit the site after it once more became a mosque.
Erdogan had previously signaled that he intended to make that change. In his decision Friday, he said the site would be transferred to the Directorate of Religious Affairs and will be open for worship.