Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered another ancient Orthodox church that became a mosque and then a popular Istanbul museum to be turned back into a place of Muslim worship.
- The 1,000-year-old building’s history closely mirrors that of the Hagia Sophia — its bigger neighbour on the historic western bank of the Golden Horn estuary on the European side of Istanbul.
- The Holy Saviour in Chora was a medieval Byzantine church decorated with 14th century frescoes of the Last Judgment that remain treasured in the Christian world.
- It was originally converted into the Kariye Mosque half a century after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks.
- It became the Kariye Museum after Second World War as Turkey pushed ahead with the creation of a more secular new republic out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
- A group of American art historians then helped restore the original church’s mosaics and opened them up for public display in 1958.
- But Mr. Erdogan is placing an ever greater political emphasis on the battles that resulted in the defeat of Byzantium by the Ottomans.
- The decision to transform the Kariye Museum into a mosque came just a month after a similarly controversial conversion for the UNESCO World Heritage-recognised Hagia Sophia.
- Both changes reflect Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to galvanise his more conservative and nationalist supporters at a time when Turkey is suffering a new spell of inflation and economic uncertainty caused by the virus.