Turkey’s decision to convert the sixth-century Chora Museum into a mosque has drawn criticism from various quarters. This decision comes after President Erdogan reconsecrated the Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO world heritage site and museum, as a mosque.
He had controversially declared the nearly 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia open to Muslim worship after a top court ruled the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman in the mid-1930s was illegal
Sputnik reported that the Greek foreign ministry has slammed Ankara’s plans to convert another former Istanbul-based Orthodox church, the Holy Saviour in Chora, into a mosque.
“Today’s decision of the Turkish authorities to turn Chora church into a mosque is another challenge that harms religious people around the world and the international community, which respects the monuments of human civilization,” the ministry was quoted as saying in a statement.
Nikolay Balashov, an arch priest of the Russian Orthodox Church, was also quoted as saying, “It seems that the Turkish leaders are ready to continue to consistently ignore the global value of the heritage of conquered Byzantium, which they do not understand, and to openly demonstrate a contemptuous indifference to Christian cultural values.”
Anadolu news agency reported that a presidential decree published in the country’s official gazette announced the 1945 Cabinet decision of making Chora into a museum.
“This building, where a museum and its funds were located until 2019, is transferred to the administration of the Directorate of Religious Affairs by the decree of Turkish President [Recep Tayyip Erdogan]. It will be opened for [Muslim] prayers. The exact date is not yet determined. Some preparations are required, and our Istanbul branch will be responsible for them,” Sputnik quoted a spokesperson of the directorate as saying.
The Chora Church was built in sixth-century Byzantine Empire. In 1511 it was converted into a mosque and in 1958 it was opened as a museum to the public.