LAST UPDATE: 20:55
Hagia Sophia officially passed into the hands of the powerful Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) on Thursday after its conversion into a mosque. The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that it had handed over the management of “some services” at Hagia Sophia to Diyanet by signing a relevant protocol.
“As it used to be, it will be open to domestic and foreign tourists. Moreover, with the order of our president, restoration works and budgets have been increased massively. We are speeding up restorations with very significant budgets,” Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Ersoy said during the signing ceremony of the protocol.
Minister Ersoy and President of Diyanet Ali Erbas signed a co-operation protocol on “Protection, Development, Promotion and Management Activities to be carried out in the Hagia Sophia.”
Ayasofya Camii eskiden olduğu gibi yerli ve yabancı turistlerin ziyaretine yine açık olacak ve artık ücret talep edilmeyecek.
— Mehmet Nuri Ersoy (@MehmetNuriErsoy) July 16, 2020
According to the protocol, religious services at Hagia Sophia will be carried out by the Diyanet, and preservation activities will be carried out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Ersoy also said that Hagia Sophia will be open to tourists free of charge.
The main principles for the protection of Hagia Sophia have been determined by the protocol, the Turkish minister said. “It has been once again underlined that the preservation of the historical and cultural aesthetic values of the mosque will be realized,” Minister Ersoy stated.
“Religious services in the Hagia Sophia Mosque will be carried out by the Diyanet. We will fulfill protection and restoration. Nothing has changed,” he noted.
He also claimed that “the Turkish nation fought to preserve the ‘Hagia Sophia mosque’ to this day” and asserts that Hagia Sophia is standing tall today and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List due to efforts of the Turkish nation, which took care of it for 576 years diligently. “From the Crusaders to the army of the Allies that conquered Constantinople in the 20th century, the disrespect and damage they caused to this majestic temple is a profound shame in History,” he said.
For his part, the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Erbas, said that “Hagia Sophia served as a mosque for 481 years from 1453.” “It will continue to serve as a mosque, with reference to the original, to Muslims in terms of worship, but to all humanity, without any belief, sect or racial discrimination,” Ali Erbas said, adding that the architecture of Hagia Sophia is a value from which people of all religions can benefit from the past.”
He added that he is working to preserve the Hagia Sophia heritage “in the best way”, in cooperation with the ministry and the General Directorate of Foundations.
Muslims will pray in Hagia Sophia five times a day. Two imams, four muezzins, are being appointed and the first prayer will take place on July 24.