Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reconverted the historic Chora church, also known as the Kariyel Monastery and one of Istanbul’s most celebrated Byzantine buildings, into a mosque today.
The mediaeval Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, built near the ancient city walls of Constantinople, contains 14th century Byzantine mosaics and frescoes showing scenes from biblical stories.
The iconography is considered amongst the most important in the entire world.
They were plastered over after the city was conquered by the Muslim Ottomans in 1453, but brought to light again when – like Hagia Sophia – the building was converted to a museum by Turkey’s secular republic more than 70 years ago.
“After the tragic transgression with #HagiaSophia, now the Monastery of Chora, this exquisite offering of Byzantine culture to the world! The Turkish people do not deserve such a narrow-minded policy. The pleas and exhortations of the international community are ignored. How long?” The Archbishop Tweeted.
Last year a Turkish court annulled a 1945 government decision converting Chora – known as Kariye in Turkish – into a museum run by the Education Ministry.
On Friday, an edict signed by Erdogan and published in Turkey’s official gazette declared “the management of the Kariye Mosque be transferred to the Religious Affairs Directorate, and (the mosque) opened to worship.”
A church was first built at the site in the 4th century, but most of the existing building dates to an 11th century church that was partly rebuilt 200 years later following an earthquake.
Erdogan’s edict on Friday did not say when the first Muslim prayers would be held at Chora, or what arrangements would be made for the Christian artworks there.
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