Too many visitors damage cathedral's Imperial Door, separator installed for protection
The Imperial Door of an ancient Christian cathedral in Istanbul (converted in 2020 into a mosque) has been taken under protection by a glass separator after it was damaged due to too many people touching it during daily visits by thousands.
Originally built by the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I between 532 and 537 as the Christian cathedral of Constantinople and designed by the Greek architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, Hagia Sophia was used as a Muslim house of worship after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman army in 1453.
Nearly five centuries later, in 1934, it was converted by a government decree into a "Memorial Museum," and was declared part of UNESCO World Heritage Site In 1985.
In 2020, it was reconverted into a mosque by a controversial court decision, after serving as a museum for 86 years.
Osman Nak, the head of Cultural Heritage and Museums Directorate in Istanbul, said:
"Visitors who are not sensitive about cultural heritage inflict harm either unintentionally or deliberately by touching artifacts. In order that we can preserve this world heritage site for future generations, we are naturally obliged to protect it."
Nak noted with concern that Hagia Sophia is visited by an average of 50,000 to 55,000 people per day.
The Imperial Door is the largest (7 m height) door in the cathedral, and is made of oak, with a bronze frame. It is the most magnificent door among the doors of Hagia Sophia, which were up to 40 in Byzantine times.