Mosque conversion raises alarm
By Andrew Finkel. Museums, Issue 245, April 2013
11 April 2013
11 April 2013
One of the most very important monuments of late Byzantium, the 13th-century Church of Hagia Sophia in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, which is now a museum, will be transformed into a mosque. Some in Turkey believe that the Church of Hagia Sophia is a aggravation for the possible re-conversion of its more famous namesake in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia Museum Ayasofya Müzesi. For about 50 years, responsibility for the Church of Hagia Sophia in Trabzon has rested with Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. “A building covenanted as a mosque cannot be used for any other purpose,” says Mazhar Yildirimhan, the head of the directorate’s office in Trabzon. He declined to speculate on whether this would mean covering up nearly half the wall space taken up with figurative Christian art, including the dome depicting a dynamic Christ Pantocrator. “There are modern techniques for masking the walls,” he says. It is the whole ensemble architecture, sculpture and painting that makes Hagia Sophia unique. This is the most complete surviving Byzantine structure; there is no 13th-century monument like it. For such a thing to occur would have key implications for the country’s status as a custodian of world heritage, according to one senior Western diplomat based in Istanbul. Preservation of history will always seem to be some sort of contemporary argument. One of which many could talk in circles about. To end it though, I think conversion can only exist if preservation of said building is taken greatly into consideration.