Turkish authorities have gone to great lengths to cover priceless Byzantine frescoes and iconography at the former Chora Church— considered one of the most significant collections of such art in the world.
Also known as the Church of the Holy Savior, authorities converted the UNESCO World Heritage site into a mosque in August and will open its doors for Muslim prayers on October 30.
At the time of its conversion— instigated by Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan which followed the similar conversion of Hagia Sophia, Greece’s president Katerina Sakellaropoulou called the move “symbolic violence” and called Erdogan’s move “an act dictated by political arrogance, cultural insecurity, religious intolerance that condemns a treasure of Christian art and cultural nobility to obscurity.”
Media and government officials were invited to tour the facility and were shown automated screens that have been installed to cover the priceless frescoes and iconography.
Mahir Polat, the director of the Cultural Heritage Department of the City of Istanbul was critical of the work being done by religious officials. In a Tweet, he posted before and after photos of a corridor of the former church that was covered in iconography and is now covered by white screens.
He called the Byzantine iconography “one of the masterpieces of world art history” and called the renovation “incompetent” and that the work that was done to conceal the Christian iconography will “kill the character and artistic value of the building.”
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