Photos: Turkey declares Hagia Sophia a mosque, revokes secular status

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul will now reopen on July 24 as a mosque, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced to popular support at home and criticism internationally, on July 10. The building was first constructed as a cathedral in the Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Erdogan’s ratification of a top court order, revokes Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum since 1934 after a decision by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ,delinking it from religious connotations for the sake of secular unity.

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST 8 Photos
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People draped in Turkish flags stand outside the now closed Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in Istanbul on July 11. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally reconverted Hagia Sophia into a mosque and declared it open for Muslim worship on July 10, hours after a High Court annulled a 1934 decision that had made the religious landmark a museum. (Emrah Gurel / AP)

People draped in Turkish flags stand outside the now closed Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions in Istanbul on July 11. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally reconverted Hagia Sophia into a mosque and declared it open for Muslim worship on July 10, hours after a High Court annulled a 1934 decision that had made the religious landmark a museum. (Emrah Gurel / AP)

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST
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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan with a picture of Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya in the background, delivers a televised address to the nation in Ankara on July 10. Erdogan in his address said the first prayers inside Hagia Sofia would be held on July 24, and urged respect for the decision. (Turkish Presidential Press Office via REUTERS)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan with a picture of Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya in the background, delivers a televised address to the nation in Ankara on July 10. Erdogan in his address said the first prayers inside Hagia Sofia would be held on July 24, and urged respect for the decision. (Turkish Presidential Press Office via REUTERS)

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST
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People wave flags and hold a banner depicting the Turkish President and Ottoman Empire Fatih Sultan Mehmet outside the Hagia Sophia on July 10 as they celebrate the revoking of the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum. Dozens awaiting the court’s ruling were seen chanting “Allah is great!” when the news broke, AP reported. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

People wave flags and hold a banner depicting the Turkish President and Ottoman Empire Fatih Sultan Mehmet outside the Hagia Sophia on July 10 as they celebrate the revoking of the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum. Dozens awaiting the court’s ruling were seen chanting “Allah is great!” when the news broke, AP reported. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST
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People, some wearing face masks, pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum on July 10. The decision also sparked deep dismay among Orthodox Christians. The sixth-century Istanbul building -- a magnet for tourists -- has been a museum since 1935, open to believers of all faiths thanks to a cabinet decision by modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

People, some wearing face masks, pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum on July 10. The decision also sparked deep dismay among Orthodox Christians. The sixth-century Istanbul building -- a magnet for tourists -- has been a museum since 1935, open to believers of all faiths thanks to a cabinet decision by modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST
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A Turkish police officer wearing a face mask stands in front of Hagia Sophia entrance on July 11. Erdogan has spoken in favour of turning the hugely symbolic UNESCO World Heritage site back into a mosque despite widespread international criticism, including from US and Orthodox Christian leaders, who had urged Turkey to keep its status as a museum symbolizing solidarity among faiths and cultures. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

A Turkish police officer wearing a face mask stands in front of Hagia Sophia entrance on July 11. Erdogan has spoken in favour of turning the hugely symbolic UNESCO World Heritage site back into a mosque despite widespread international criticism, including from US and Orthodox Christian leaders, who had urged Turkey to keep its status as a museum symbolizing solidarity among faiths and cultures. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST
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A view from Sultanahmet mosque with Hagia Sophia in the background on July 11. The debate hits at the heart of Turkey’s religious-secular divide. Nationalist and conservative groups in Turkey regard the monument as part of Muslim Ottoman legacy. Others believe it should remain a museum, as a symbol of Christian and Muslim solidarity. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

A view from Sultanahmet mosque with Hagia Sophia in the background on July 11. The debate hits at the heart of Turkey’s religious-secular divide. Nationalist and conservative groups in Turkey regard the monument as part of Muslim Ottoman legacy. Others believe it should remain a museum, as a symbol of Christian and Muslim solidarity. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST
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Tourists inside the Hagia Sophia on July 10 in Istanbul. Built under Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries, where emperors were crowned amid ornate marble and mosaic decorations. The minarets were added later, and the building was turned into an imperial mosque following the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

Tourists inside the Hagia Sophia on July 10 in Istanbul. Built under Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries, where emperors were crowned amid ornate marble and mosaic decorations. The minarets were added later, and the building was turned into an imperial mosque following the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. (Ozan Kose / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST
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People demonstrate with banners and Greek national flags against the conversion outside the Agia Sofia church of Thessaloniki on July 10. The move by Turkey threatens to deepen tensions with neighbouring Greece, whose Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has condemned the decision as an affront to Hagia Sophia’s ecumenical character. (Sakis Mitrolidis / AFP)

People demonstrate with banners and Greek national flags against the conversion outside the Agia Sofia church of Thessaloniki on July 10. The move by Turkey threatens to deepen tensions with neighbouring Greece, whose Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has condemned the decision as an affront to Hagia Sophia’s ecumenical character. (Sakis Mitrolidis / AFP)

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2020 03:40 PM IST
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