Photos | Mosque or museum: Turkey’s disputed Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was at the heart of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires, is one of Turkey's most visited monuments. Finished in the year 537 with futuristic building techniques in what was then Constantinople, it was the main cathedral in Christendom - and the world's largest - for 900 years before becoming an Ottoman mosque in 1453. It was converted into a museum in 1934 under the secular founder of the modern Turkish republic, Kemal Ataturk, but the case before the court challenges the legality of this step. President Tayyip Erdogan, a pious Muslim, has proposed making Hagia Sophia, called Ayasofya in Turkish, into a mosque again.

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST 8 Photos
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An aerial view of the Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, during a four-day curfew which was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey, April 24, 2020. (REUTERS)

An aerial view of the Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, during a four-day curfew which was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey, April 24, 2020. (REUTERS)

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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A view of the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, Thursday, June 25, 2020. (AP)

A view of the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, Thursday, June 25, 2020. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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FILE - In this Saturday, March 16, 2019 file photo, backdropped by Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine-era cathedral that was turned into a mosque and now serves as a museum, demonstrators protest holding a Turkish flag. (AP)

FILE - In this Saturday, March 16, 2019 file photo, backdropped by Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine-era cathedral that was turned into a mosque and now serves as a museum, demonstrators protest holding a Turkish flag. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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FILE - In this Friday, May 29, 2020 file photo, a Muslim cleric recites the "prayer conquest" from the Quran, Islam's holy book, inside Istanbul's 6th-century Hagia Sophia — the main cathedral of the Byzantine Empire which was converted into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest of the city, then known as Constantinople, in 1453, in Istanbul. (AP)

FILE - In this Friday, May 29, 2020 file photo, a Muslim cleric recites the "prayer conquest" from the Quran, Islam's holy book, inside Istanbul's 6th-century Hagia Sophia — the main cathedral of the Byzantine Empire which was converted into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest of the city, then known as Constantinople, in 1453, in Istanbul. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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An aerial view of the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, on Saturday, April 25, 2020, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. (AP)

An aerial view of the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, on Saturday, April 25, 2020, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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People visit the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul on Thursday, June 25, 2020. (AP)

People visit the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul on Thursday, June 25, 2020. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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People visit the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, Thursday, June 25, 2020 photo. (AP)

People visit the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, Thursday, June 25, 2020 photo. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 file photo, a visitor from Greece touches the damp stone of a pillar named 'Weeping Pillar', where tradition says Emperor Justinian rested his aching head and was instantly cured, inside the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. (AP)

FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 file photo, a visitor from Greece touches the damp stone of a pillar named 'Weeping Pillar', where tradition says Emperor Justinian rested his aching head and was instantly cured, inside the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. (AP)

UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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