After mosque reconversion, first Friday prayers held in Hagia Sophia
Several thousand Muslims gathered on July 24 to take part in the first Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia since the Istanbul landmark was reconverted to a mosque, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also taking part.
The prayers come after a July 10 ruling revoked the Byzantine-era building’s status as a museum, in place since 1934, reports Hurriyet Daily News.
Erdoğan recited a verse from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, before the call to prayer was heard from the four minarets of Hagia Sophia.
Carpets have been rolled out inside the former museum, with before the first Friday prayer in Turkey’s modern history.
Shades of duck-head green color were used in the carpet, which included 17th-century Ottoman motifs.
The floor of the historical structure is covered with carpet, as it is intended not to harm the historical texture and architecture of the building.
Paintings, depictions and mosaics were closed with a system of curtains during prayers.
As Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s top religious body, led the first Friday prayer, two imams, and four muezzins have been assigned to serve on other days.
Meanwhile, a wide range of security measures was taken around Hagia Sophia and the main arteries of the historical peninsula of Istanbul for the first Islamic worship.
“We encourage our guests not to bring handbags and backpacks with them so that the transition can be made quickly and easily at the search points,” Yerlikaya noted.
The architectural treasure, which is among Turkey’s top tourism destinations, will also be open to domestic and foreign tourists free of charge.
Hagia Sophia was used as a church for centuries under the rule of the Byzantine Empire and turned into a mosque following its conquest of Istanbul in 1453.
In 1935, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum.
On July 10, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree and this move paved the way for its use again as a mosque.