Iranian media outlets on Friday widely covered the reopening of the Hagia Sophia Mosque to Muslim worship after more than eight decades.
Iranian state television reported the landmark’s reconversion to a mosque from its 86-year status as a museum as “one of the most important events of the century.”
The official IRNA news agency used the headline “Friday prayer in Hagia Sophia after 86 years” above its report on the Hagia Sophia’s reopening.
In a separate report the semi-official Fars News Agency said: “The historical Hagia Sophia, which was converted from a museum to a mosque with a court decision and with the signature of Turkish President, is witnessing the first Friday prayers after 86 years with the participation of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
House of worship and tourist destination
Besides being a working mosque, Hagia Sophia is also among Turkey’s top tourism destinations for domestic and foreign visitors alike.
In 1985, during its time as a museum, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 — nearly 500 years — and most recently as a museum for 86 years.
Erdogan and other Turkish leaders had long advocated it returning to a working mosque, open for worship.
On July 19 a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use as a mosque.
In the new era for Hagia Sophia, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate oversees religious services at the mosque, while the Culture and Tourism Ministry supervises restoration and conservation work.
The architectural treasure is also open to domestic and foreign tourists free of charge.
*Writing By Zehra Nur Duz