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The edifice of Hagia Sophia has been standing since 537 AD when it was consecrated as an Orthodox Christian Church. Its construction predates Saint Peter’s cathedral in Rome by a thousand years. The iconography and the architecture of this Great Church emanated from the vision of the Emperor-theologian Justinian the Great. Hagia Sophia which has been so widely admired by scholars, historians, and art experts reflects the inspiration of the Gospel and the deeply spiritual theology of the Greek fathers of Eastern Christianity. The Hagia Sophia has been a unique human achievement for a variety of reasons. The name of the Church literally means Holy Wisdom. The enormity of its dome is one unique architectural feature. The size of the building’s interior is said by scholars to have permitted as many as twenty three thousand worshippers to attend services on a given day. Its beauty and sublime depiction of the heavenly realm and the Divine are unsurpassed.
Following the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, Hagia Sophia became the site of horrific atrocities against the Greek faithful when the last divine liturgy was interrupted by the Ottomans. After over 900 years of service as Christianity’s greatest church, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and its magnificent iconography was plastered over for nearly five hundred years in order to permit Muslim worship. It was relatively recently, in 1935, that the Turkish government converted the Hagia Sophia to a museum. In the 1950s and 1960s western intellectuals and scholars of Byzantium succeeded in restoring and continue to restore much of the Great Church's iconography with some stunning successes in recent years. Sadly, some of the iconography was likely permanently damaged in the conversion to a mosque.
People from all faiths and nationalities continue to visit Hagia Sophia. Unfortunately on June 6, 2016 Turkey permitted Muslim prayers to be said inside Hagia Sophia museum. If the present non-Christian prayers being said in Hagia Sophia are a prelude to the permanent use of the Great Church, now museum, for Islamic worship, then a terrible sacrilege and insult to the feelings of Christians will have been carried out.