Two weeks after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan terminated the Hagia Sophia ‘s status as a museum, the iconic building in Istanbul will once again host Muslim Friday prayers. Up to 2000 worshippers are expected to attend the landmark’s first Muslim prayers since 1934.
It served for 900 years as a Byzantine Christian cathedral before being captured by Ottoman conquerors and transformed into a mosque. There the Muslims prayed until it was turned into a museum in 1934.
Hagia Sophia is almost 1,500 years old and was one of the world’s most sanctified seats of Christian and then Muslim worship, indicating that the change to its status has deep consequences for followers of both faiths. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well.
Ali Yerlikaya, Istanbul’s Governor, said in a Thursday press conference at the iconic marvel that everybody looks forward to attending the special prayers with great enthusiasm.
Stressing the steps being taken against the coronavirus, he said that to avoid overcrowding, five separate open spaces were reserved for worshipers.
On the outbreak of COVID-19, Yerlikaya said the worshippers who come to Hagia Sophia would bring their own masks and prayer rugs as well as patience and understanding to guard against the virus and make things easier.