The Many Designations of the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia has been the subject of competing influences for centuries.

(click to enlarge) Situated in the heart of Istanbul and overlooking the Bosporus Strait, which many consider a bridge between East and West, the status of the Hagia Sophia has for centuries been subject to competing influences. Erected originally as an Orthodox Christian basilica by the Byzantine Empire, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after Sultan Mehmed II conquered the Byzantine capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul) and spread Islam westward. But after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and establishment of the Turkish Republic, Turkey shifted from an Islamic caliphate to a secular, reformist country, and with this shift came the secularization of Hagia Sophia. Last week, however, the highest court in Turkey overruled a 1934 government decree that turned the Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum, allowing the historic building to be re-converted into a mosque. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported the move. Turkey entered a new political phase when his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, known for its populist Islamic platform, came to power in 2002. While Turkey attempted to align with Europe in the early 2000s by applying for European Union membership, hostilities with EU members Greece and Cyprus blocked its […]

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