The United States is calling on Turkey to keep the Hagia Sophia as a museum accessible to everyone, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday
WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 01st July, 2020) The United States is calling on Turkey to keep the Hagia Sophia as a museum accessible to everyone, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday.
"The Government of Turkey has administered the Hagia Sophia as a museum - officially recognized by UNESCO as part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul World Heritage Site - in an outstanding manner for nearly a century," Pompeo said. "We urge the Government of Turkey to continue to maintain the Hagia Sophia as a museum, as an exemplar of its commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history that contributed to the Republic of Turkey, and to ensure it remains accessible to all."
Pompeo pointed out that the unique Hagia Sophia is a testament to both religious expression and to artistic genius.
"Moreover, the site's status as a museum has allowed people from all over the world to access and reflect upon this magnificent achievement," Pompeo said. "The United States views a change in the status of the Hagia Sophia as diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building and its unsurpassed ability - so rare in the modern world - to serve humanity as a much-needed bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures."
Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Hagia Sophia (formerly, the Church of the Holy Wisdom), which used to be an Orthodox Christian cathedral before becoming a mosque and then a museum, could become a mosque again with free admission.
Earlier in June, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy commenting on the controversial plans of the Turkish ruling party to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, said that the world-famous museum is "the property of the Republic of Turkey and all means of authority are a matter of Turkey's internal affairs."
The Church of the Holy Wisdom was completed in 537 AD during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great and remained the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church until the conquest of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204, after which the building was turned into a Catholic cathedral. In 1261, the Byzantine Empire recaptured the city and the Church of the Holy Wisdom once again became the main Orthodox cathedral.
The Ottoman troops led by Sultan Mehmet II captured Constantinople on May 29, 1453, and after that, the cathedral became a mosque. In 1934, then Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk issued a decree, which turned Hagia Sophia into a museum.