First prayer at Hagia Sophia Mosque after 86 years in Istanbul, Turkey
Turkish President Erdogan joins thousands of worshipers at the grand mosque
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan joined thousands of worshipers for the first time after 86 years at the historic Hagia Grand Mosque in Istanbul on Friday. The President had declared the monument revered by Muslims and Christians for almost 1,500 years, a mosque again.
Erdogan and his top ministers, wearing white facemasks as a precaution against Covid-19, knelt on blue carpets at the start of a ceremony which marks the return of Muslim worship to the ancient structure. The Turkish president also recited verses from the Holy Quran.
Earlier, crowds formed at checkpoints around the historic heart of Istanbul where massed police maintained security. Once through the checks, worshippers sat apart on prayer mats in secured areas outside the building in Sultanahmet Square.
“We are ending our 86 years of longing today,” said one man, Sait Colak, referring to the nearly nine decades since Hagia Sophia was declared a museum and ceased to be a place of worship.
“Thanks to our president and the court decision, today we are going to have our Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia.”
A top Turkish court announced this month it had annulled Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum. Erdogan immediately decreed that the building, a Christian Byzantine cathedral for 900 years before being seized by Ottoman conquerors and serving as a mosque until 1934, had been converted once again to a mosque.