Just weeks after the historic Hagia Sophia was returned to a mosque, another historic building is gearing up to reopen as a mosque. Chora Museum, one of Istanbul’s most celebrated Byzantine buildings, will be next to open as a mosque. The stunning building dates back to the sixth-century Byzantine Empire and has a beautiful structure which remains intact till this day. It was in the 16th century, after the conquest of Istanbul by Mehmet II, that the church was converted into a mosque.
Inside the building, you will find that the interior is covered with some of the oldest surviving Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. They were uncovered and restored after the building was turned into a museum. Iconic images in Muslim prayer venues are prohibited due to which the church’s frescoes were covered under a layer of plaster, which took a toll on the mosaics. Major earthquakes back in the 12th century too took their toll on the building.
Just last year, a Turkish court annulled a 1945 decision to convert Chora into a museum run by the Education Ministry. And now, a decree signed by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was published in Turkey’s official gazette which declared “the management of the Kariye Mosque be transferred to the Religious Affairs Directorate, and (the mosque) opened to worship.”
The museum is situated near the ancient city walls and is celebrated for its elaborate mosaics and frescoes. It dates to the 4th century, although the edifice took on its current form in the 11th-12th centuries. A number of the city’s residents rushed to the building with some hoping to offer their prayers there, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
“Like the Hagia Sophia, this is an important mosque for Muslims,” the agency quoted Istanbul resident Cuma Er as saying. “We came here to pray after we learned about the decision. But we have been told that it has not yet been opened for prayers. We are waiting for the opening.”