Turkey: Hagia Sophia Mosque turns new page in history

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ANKARA

Reopening the iconic Hagia Sophia Mosque for worship for the first time in 86 years turned a new page in history, Turkey’s foreign minister said Friday. 

“Thank God, Hagia Sophia grand mosque opened,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter. “At the same time in the history of Turkey’s independence.”

House of worship and tourist destination

Besides functioning as a working mosque, Hagia Sophia is also among Turkey’s top tourism destinations for domestic and foreign visitors.

In 1985, during its time as a museum, it 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.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish leaders had long advocated it returning to a working mosque, open for worship.

A Turkish court a annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree July 19 that turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use as a mosque.

In a new era for Hagia Sophia, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate will oversee religious services at the mosque, while the Culture and Tourism Ministry will supervises restoration and conservation work.

The architectural treasure is also open to domestic and foreign tourists free of charge.

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