Skip to main content

Erdogan converts another historic church into a mosque

The centuries-old Chora church, which has served as a museum since 1945, will soon be open to Muslim worship.
GettyImages-1267535434.jpg

Following the transformation of Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today declared that another ancient church-turned-mosque now functioning as a museum will be converted back into a mosque. 

The medieval church in Istanbul largely dates to the 11th century and was originally known as the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora in what was then Constantinople. After the Ottoman conquest of the city, the church was turned into a mosque, the Kariye Camii, in the early 16th century. 

Then in 1945, the Turkish government ordered that the building, which is located in Istanbul’s Fatih district, be used as a museum as part of efforts to secularize the country. A Turkish court in November annulled Chora’s museum status and on Friday, Erdogan declared “the management of the Kariye Mosque be transferred to the Religious Affairs Directorate, and opened to worship.”

The pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper reported that Turkey’s religious authorities plan to cover the renowned Byzantine-era frescoes and mosaics during prayers. A similar approach was taken with the Hagia Sophia, the UNESCO World Heritage site converted to a mosque last month. 

Erdogan, who led thousands in the first prayers after the Hagia Sophia’s conversion, did not say when the centuries-old structure will begin use for Muslim worship.  

The changeover has drawn criticism from Erdogan’s political rivals and church leaders who said the move would harden Turkey’s religious divide. Garo Paylan, an opposition lawmaker, called the conversion "a shame for our country.”

"One of the symbols of our country's deep, multicultural identity and multi-religious history has been sacrificed," he wrote in a tweet today. 

The Greek Foreign Ministry called the transformation "yet another provocation against religious persons everywhere" by Turkey’s government.

This story contains reporting from Agence France-Presse.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial