Turkey’s General Directorate of Vaqufs has issued a statement clarifying that the Byzantine church of the Chora Monastery in Constantinople will be opened as a mosque in May, and denying reports that the first Muslim prayer will be held on February 23.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, citing the official announcement, reported that restoration work at the Chora Monastery is being completed and work has begun to open it for worship in May. The exact date will be announced once the work is completed.
In the same statement, it is noted that the information that came from unofficial sources and saw the light of day yesterday, Tuesday, about the opening of the Monastery of Chora as a mosque on February 23rd, does not correspond to the truth.
The Katholikon of the former monastic complex, dates back to the 6th century AD, while its unique mosaics and frescoes were created in the 14th century, from 1305 to 1320, during the reign of the Palaiologos.
It is the monument with the most elaborate Byzantine mosaics that survives in Constantinople, along with Hagia Sophia and the Monastery of Pammakaristou, which also functions as a mosque under the name of Fethiye.
The Chora Monastery was converted to a mosque in 1511, 58 years after the Fall of Constantinople, and was turned into a museum by a decision of the Turkish Cabinet in 1945. Following this decision, experts from the United States carried out a huge restoration and conservation project of the mosaics, tearing off the plaster that covered them. In 2019, Turkey’s Council of State (Danistay) nullified the 1945 decision, and a year later, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that it would reopen as a mosque.
Translated by Ioanna Georgakopoulou