Voices grow louder in Turkey to convert Hagia Sophia from a museum back to mosque

For The Los Angeles Times:

As the time for afternoon prayers approaches, Onder Soy puts on a white robe and cap and switches on the microphone in a small 19th century room adjoining the Hagia Sophia.

Soon, Soy’s melodic call to prayer rings out over a square filled with tourists hurrying to visit some of Turkey’s most famous historical sights before they close for the day.

The room Soy is in — built as a resting place for the sultan and now officially called the Hagia Sophia mosque — fills up with around 40 worshipers, drawn not by the modestly decorated space itself, but by the ancient building it shares a wall with.

Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in AD 537, the Hagia Sophia was originally a Greek Orthodox basilica and one of the most important churches in all of Christendom. It became a mosque in 1453 after the Ottoman Empire defeated the Byzantines and took over Constantinople.

With the birth of a secular Turkish Republic, the Hagia Sophia became a museum in 1935, meant to highlight the shared legacy of the space for the world’s two largest religions. But, eight decades later, the fate of this building still tugs at the hearts of Muslims and Christians alike.

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