Turkey: Thousands fill 1500-year-old cathedral for Eid Al-Adha prayer

Turkey: Thousands fill 1500-year-old cathedral for Eid Al-Adha prayer
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The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, reconverted from museum to mosque in 2020, yet again faces possible damage to its structure as crowds rush in for Eid Al-Adha prayer.

Thousands of people in Istanbul, Turkey, flooded to the Hagia Sophia for Eid Al-Adha prayer on Saturday, some arriving hours in advance to be able to secure a free spot for themselves inside the 1,500-year-old architectural marvel.

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, the Hagia Sophia was utilized as a Muslim house of worship after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman in 1453.

Nearly five centuries later, in 1934, it was converted by a government decree to a "Memorial Museum," and declared part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site In 1985.

In 2020, it was reconverted to a mosque by a highly controversial court decision, after serving as a museum for 86 years.

The Hagia Sophia has been treated with little concern over the preservation of its original structure and texture by Turkish authorities and Muslim worshipers alike despite reports that serious damage has been inflicted on its various parts within the last two years.

In one of the more recent reports, a tour guide observed at the end of June that the floor tiles were damaged as a result of the use of heavy machines to clean the site.

The guide, Ozlem Kabasakal, also noted:

"This historic building has faced tremendous damage. When Hagia Sophia was a museum, people visited it with great respect. Now it's like a carnival ground."

In another report on 18 April by the Turkish Association of Art Historians, significant damage to the "Imperial Gate" was observed, with an image clearly depicting the damage to the oak wood of the 15-century-old gate.