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Turkey reverts another Byzantine church into a mosque

August 21, 2020 at 3:37 pm

A tourist visits the Church of the Holy Saviour, a medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul on 21 August 2020 [BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images]

The Turkish government has reverted a historic Byzantine church into a mosque today, using the same ruling as was used for the reversion of the Hagia Sophia last month.

The Byzantine-era Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, located near the crumbled ancient walls of Istanbul, was reverted after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed an edict today stating that “the management of the Kariye Mosque be transferred to the Religious Affairs Directorate, and (the mosque) opened to worship.”

The site was first constructed as early as the 4th century, with most of the existing building dating back to the 11th century as a church that was then partially rebuilt 200 years later after an earthquake inflicted damage on it. Most significantly, it contains several Byzantine mosaics and frescoes from the 14th century, displaying Biblical scenes.

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Following the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453, the mosaics in the Chora church were plastered over and converted into a mosque, before then being converted into a museum by the secular Turkish Republic over 70 years ago in 1945.

The building’s status again began to be contested last year, however, when a Turkish court annulled the former cabinet decision, leading to today’s ruling signed by Erdogan.

It comes over a month after the more historic and larger former cathedral Hagia Sophia was also reverted back into a mosque using the same ruling, which sparked outrage from many in the international community including church leaders and some European nations.

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