History- Important places, persons in news

What is the Hagia Sophia?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hagia Sophia

Mains level : World History: Turkish renaissance under Ottoman Empire

Turkey’s highest court this week convened to decide whether Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia museum can be turned into a mosque.

Try this question:

Q. The iconic Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site was recently in news. It is situated in:

a) Greece b) Turkey c) Israel d) Iran

What is the Hagia Sophia?

  • The construction of this iconic structure in Istanbul started in 532 AD during the reign of Justinian I, the ruler of the Byzantine Empire when the city was known as Constantinople.
  • The structure was originally built to become the seat of the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church and remained so for approximately 900 years.
  • In 1453, when Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet II’s Ottoman forces, the Hagia Sophia was ransacked by the invading forces and turned into a mosque shortly after.
  • For a long time, the Hagia Sophia was Istanbul’s most important mosque.
  • The 1,500-year-old structure, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was originally a cathedral before it was turned into a mosque.

What is the controversy about?

  • In the 1930s, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, shut down the mosque and turned it into a museum in an attempt to make the country more secular.
  • There have been calls for long from extremists groups to convert the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.
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