Início » The Metamorphosis of Hagia Sophia

The Metamorphosis of Hagia Sophia

Ines Lei

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia will be converted back into a mosque.

It was once considered world’s geographical center and it is not the first time this Byzantine wonder has faced such a challenge of conversion, being either the largest Cathedral in the world or the most important mosque in Constantine. Today, Hagia Sophia is a hybrid architecture that blends the canon of Graeco-Roman architecture with islamic elements. In the early 20th century, it was transformed into a museum, not just being a symbol of modernisation, but also a declaration of political neutrality.

As far as I am concerned, what matters most is whether the ornamental details of Hagia Sophia will be removed or destructed, due to Erdogan‘s decision. Since Hagia Sophia was officially inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a component of the historic areas of Istanbul in 1985. World Heritage Committee assuredly need to undertake impact assessment studies, in order to assess the potential negative and positive impacts on heritage sites. However, it is unlikely that UNSEO would go any further. First and foremost, Hagia Sophia’s conversion is always its implications in the nature of both religion and politics.

Debate raged for centuries as to whether Hagia Sophia was a mosque or a cathedral, the answer to this question is not as simple as black and white. The real nightmare, nevertheless, might actually be the right-wing coalition government. Under this circumstances, discussion of ideologies and cultural identities has moved well beyond purely architectural philosophy and have played on the geopolitical chessboard. The rise of nationalism in Turkish has long aroused considerable unease in the region. This time, the decision to convert Hagia Sophia back to mosque defiantly breaks the geopolitical balance in the region and creates a far-reaching impact. These actions not only could further deepen the internal rift and political crisis in Turkey, but also placed once again this Byzantine wonder in the eye of a political storm like hundred years ago.

Notre Dame Cathedral was engulfed in a roaring blaze and will never be the same. Hagia Sophia still remains standing dealing with the most controversial issues, but nothing seems to have changed. After all, in comparison with Paris, Constantinople, once considered world’s center, is too far away on the cognitive map for the modern world.

Contact Us

Generalist media, focusing on the relationship between Portuguese-speaking countries and China.

Plataforma Studio


Subscribe Plataforma Newsletter to keep up with everything!