In response to questions as to why the 12th century landmark will not be renovated as a museum among the options previously mentioned, General Directorate of Foundations head Adnan Ertem stated that the structure had been decried as a mosque and has thus been added to the general directorate’s budget accordingly. Renovations on the structure had been ongoing since 2012.
A recent controversy has grown over one of Turkey’s main historic landmarks and tourist attractions, the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul. The former Byzantine Church had become a mosque following the Ottoman Empire invasion of the city in 1453, and has been serving as a museum since 1935 under the Modern Turkish Republic.
Hagia Sophias in İznik, West Turkey, and in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, had been converted back to mosques in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Both structures, established as churches, were changed into mosques following the invasion of the Ottoman Empire.
In April, Mufti of Ankara, Prof. Dr. Mefail Hızlı had hinted that the process of opening the Hagia Sophia to prayer could be sped up in reaction to the pope’s “genocide” comment concerning the 1915 deaths of Ottoman Armenians during World War I.
Hızlı’s statement has raised questions on whether or not the Turkish government has plans to convert it back into a mosque. Last month a Quran reading was held in the cathedral and museum for the first time in 85 years.