Hagia Sophia: Association of Greek Archaeologists calls on UNESCO's intervention to save it

Hagia Sophia

The Association of Greek Archaeologists is sounding the alarm about the discredit and indifference to Hagia Sophia and other important world heritage monuments located in Turkey, asking UNESCO to intervene immediately.

In a letter to the General Director of the organisation, Audrey Azoulay, the Greek archaeologists point out the serious damage suffered by the church of Hagia Sophia, from 2020 until today, which functions as a Muslim mosque, informs that many more monuments have suffered beyond repair damages during renovations and announce their new dynamic interventions with the participation of the international scientific community.


"The operation of Hagia Sophia as a visitable monument from 1935 to 2020 ensured the unhindered access of the public to all the masterpieces it possesses. During its museum use, Byzantine mosaics were uncovered and preserved and parts of the building were restored, according to a program that provided for the gradual disclosure and promotion of the historical identity of the monument," said the letter.

"Thus, the visitor, Turkish and foreign, had the pleasure of enjoying the value of this leading monument that has adorned Constantinople since the 6th century AD."

The letter also underlines that the decision of the Turkish Council of State in 2020 to cancel the decision of 1934 that turned Hagia Sophia into a museum led to serious alterations and damages.

"Since 2020 and especially recently, photographic evidence has come to light with ominous prospects for the future of Hagia Sophia. The newer wooden shutters of the Basilian Gate were damaged, wall plasters were scraped and removed, fountains and doors were used to store shoes, marble floor slabs were destroyed. The unique Byzantine mosaics remain covered and invisible. Archaeological science has been left out of the monument."


The Association of Greek Archaeologists speaks of " discrediting, indifference and treating Hagia Sophia as a mosque without historical depth, as a place where respect for history and art is absent," while looking back to the past to meaningfully remind that  according to tradition, Muhammad II on the day of the Fall prevented one of his soldiers from removing a marble slab from the floor of Hagia Sophia, acted as its protector and respected the value of the old Christian church when he converted it into a place of Muslim prayer and ensured for its operation as a significant property."

Special reference is made to other important monuments which have suffered significant damages during the works.

"During the last few years (2006 onwards) when the Directorate of Religious Affairs took over the management of monuments formerly held by the Archaeological Service of Turkey, many monuments have suffered irreparable damage," said the Greek archaeologists.

"The discrediting of Hagia Sophia and the Chora Church nullifies the social possibilities of cultural development, does not cultivate historical and artistic education, deprives Turkey of the understanding of its historical identity - the significant position that this country should have as custodian of Byzantine civilization, and not only that," the Greek archaeologists underline.

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