I believe Istanbul holds a special place in all of our hearts. With its culture, architecture, and food, Istanbul is truly mesmerizing. There are numerous architecturally remarkable structures in the city. Istanbul has developed a reputation for being a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities throughout the course of its lengthy history. The city is home to numerous medieval mosques, cathedrals, synagogues, palaces, castles, and towers.
Hagia Sophia is a mosque and an important historical and cultural site in Istanbul, Turkey. Its formal name is Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Turkish: Ayasofya-i Kebir Cami-i Şerifi). The location was once a Greek Orthodox church, but since the fall of the Byzantine Empire, it has alternated between being a mosque and a museum. Originally constructed between 532 and 537 A.D. as the Christian cathedral of Constantinople for the state church of the Roman Empire, and designed by Greek geometers, it was formally known as the Church of the Holy Wisdom and had the world's largest interior space at the time, as well as being among the first to deploy a fully pendentive dome. It is regarded as the pinnacle of Byzantine architecture and is credited with "changing the course of architectural history."
The structure was secularized by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1934, and it was turned into a museum in 1935. In 1985, the Hagia Sophia was named a part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, a UNESCO World Heritage site that also contains the city's other significant historic structures and locations. A controversial choice was made in 2020 to turn the structure back into a mosque. Shortly after the announcement, Muslim prayers were held while the Christian imagery on the edifice was partially hidden by curtains. The Hagia Sophia, Turkey's most popular tourist destination, remained available to the public.
According to an image that the Turkish Union of Art History posted, the famous Imperial Gate in Hagia Sophia has been damaged. The image clearly demonstrates the damage done to the gate's 15th-century oak wood. Marble floor tiles broken by heavy machinery, tourists scraping paint off its walls and stealing chips from its "Imperial Gate" lead to one vandalism, mismanagement, and neglect are seriously and irreparably harming the World Monument.
(Damage done to the “Imperial Gate”)
Usually historical monuments are for to admire, to observe, and learn; not to be eaten. When questioned how the severe damage to the door came about, one of the guards stated that it was caused by people who tore the wooden door's pieces out and ate them because they believed they were sacred. Today, we are in a position to speculate as to who are "eating it (the monument) " rather than treasuring this immense monument.
Did you know that the original Hagia Sophia's roof was made of wood? The building was destroyed in riots that broke out in Constantinople in 404 A.D. as a result of political disputes within the family of the then-Emperor Arkadios, who had a volatile reign from 395 to 408 A.D. Although Hagia Sophia has been destroyed before, it has been a very long time since the year 404. You would think that after 1618 years, people would have become more civilized, but judging by the continued destruction of the Hagia Sophia, it appears otherwise.
The Association of Greek Archaeologists (SEA) published an open letter on Monday, 28 August 2022, pleading with Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO, to "intervene aggressively" to rescue Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia. The Imperial Gate's Ottoman wooden door leaves were harmed, wall coatings were scraped off and removed, doors and fountains were used as shoe racks, and marble floor slabs were shattered, the archaeologists wrote in their letter. “Since 2020 and especially in the recent past, photographic evidence has come to light with gloomy prospects for the future of Hagia Sophia. The Ottoman wooden door leaves of the Imperial Gate were damaged, wall coatings were scraped and removed, fountains and doors were used for shoe storage, marble floor slabs were destroyed. The unique Byzantine mosaics remain covered and unseen. Archaeological supervision has stayed outside the monument.”
(Fountains used as shoe storage)
The main issue here should not be whether Hagia Sophia should be a museum or a mosque. Instead, the main issue should be how to best take care of Hagia Sophia. The concerns are that the ongoing disagreement over function will prevent the creation of a management strategy that is adequate to the size of the issues at hand, including the need to protect against earthquake risk, manage mass tourism responsibly, preserve the historical fabric, and maintain visibility of all Byzantine and Ottoman artifacts. The Hagia Sophia has been ruling its reign for quite a long time and is too precious to be destroyed like that. It has been preserved for over 1500 years, and if the required action to protect it gets provided, new generations might as well see how beautiful of a monument it is.