Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan kicked off the New Year with a provocative reference to Agia Sophia, calling the iconic structure, a Christian Orthodox Basilica turned UNESCO Museum and recently converted to an Islamic mosque, the jewel of 2020.
While acknowledging the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic internationally, Erdoğan made a note of listing his country’s so-called achievements in the face of the global health crisis.
The Agia Sophia, supposedly protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, is one of the holiest sites in Orthodox Christianity.
Built where a fourth-century church once stood, the Agia Sophia was constructed in the sixth century and is one of the best surviving examples of Byzantine architecture.
After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Agia Sofia was converted into a mosque, and many precious mosaics were destroyed.
The rise of secularism in Turkey during the early twentieth century, spearheaded by Atatürk, culminated in the conversion of the site from a mosque to a museum.