Istanbul, Turkey – The first Friday prayers in commenced in Hagia Sophia mosque after 86 years.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site was built as a cathedral during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 537 but converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and later into a museum which was ruled to have been unlawful by a top court of the country.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the nearly 1,500-year-old monument open to Muslim worship, on July 10, 2020 despite the worldwide controversy the decision had sparked.
Erdogan, who is believed to have joined hundreds of worshippers for the Friday prayer today, said last year, that it was a “very big mistake” to convert the Hagia Sophia into a museum.
Addressing the criticism he faces from the world for the move, Erdogan said that it is a “historical and sovereign right” of Turkey to do so.
The mosque will continue to be open for tourists and people of all faith and entry will now be free, Turkey announced.