Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a decree on July 10 to formally declare the Hagia Sophia as a mosque.
After completing all preparations, Hagia Sophia will be opened for worship on July 24 at Friday prayer, according to Erdoğan.
Erdoğan said Hagia Sophia’s doors will be open for Turks, foreigners, Muslims, and non-Muslims as is the case with all other mosques.
Later on Sunday, July 12, Erdoğan commented that the Hagia Sophia’s status is an internal matter, urging other countries to respect the final decision of the country.
Istanbul’s Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu said today that Hagia Sophia has always been a mosque in my conscious. Ekrem İmamoğlu told Hürriyet newspaper that he has always said in his remarks that Hagia Sophia is a mosque. To him, it has remained a mosque since 1453 when Istanbul was conquered by the Ottomans.
Pope Francis said on July 12 he was hurt by Turkey’s decision to make Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum a mosque, becoming the latest religious leader to condemn the move. “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained,” he said during his weekly blessing in St. Peter’s Square.
The Hagia Sophia was used as a church for centuries under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. It was turned into a mosque following the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. In 1935, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum.
Hagia Sophia was the most visited museum in Turkey. It had also one of the most expensive entrance tickets in the country. The entrance fee for foreign tourists increased to 100 TL (US$14.5 or 12.85 euro) following a recent price increase. Hagia Sophia collects around 400 million lira (US$58.25 million – 51.35 million euro) annually, however, with the conversion to a mosque, the country will lose that tourism income.