Built in 537, Hagia Sophia is the oldest and most impressive Christian cathedral that has ever existed. For nearly 1000 years, it was the world center of Christendom. When Constantinople was invaded by the Turks in 1453, it was desecrated and turned into a mosque. For reasons which will be explained in a moment, the government of Turkey decreed in 1931 that it was no longer a worship facility for any religion, and in 1935 it was opened up as a museum. By law, no one is allowed to worship or pray there.
It looks like this is now about to change. According to Raymond Ibrahim of PJ Media,
While unrest in Turkey continues to capture attention, more subtle and more telling events concerning the Islamification of Turkey — and not just at the hands of Prime Minister Erdogan but majorities of Turks — are quietly transpiring. These include the fact that Turkey’s Hagia Sophia museum is on its way to becoming a mosque …
[A}ccording to Hurriyet Daily News, “A parliamentary commission is considering an application by citizens to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque…. A survey conducted with 401 people was attached to the application, in which more than 97 percent of interviewees requested the transformation of the ancient building into a mosque and afterwards for it to be reopened for Muslim worship.”
Even lesser known is the fact that other historic churches are currently being transformed into mosques, such as a 13th century church building — portentously also named Hagia Sophia — in Trabzon. After the Islamic conquest, it was turned into a mosque. But because of its “great historical and cultural significance” for Christians, it too, during Turkey’s secular age, was turned into a museum and its frescoes restored. Yet local authorities recently decreed that its Christian frescoes would again be covered and the church/museum turned into a mosque.
Similarly, the 5th century Studios Monastery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is set to become an active mosque. And the existence of the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, 5th century Mor Gabriel Monastery, is at risk. Inhabited today by only a few dozen Christians dedicated to learning the monastery’s teachings, the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus, and the Orthodox Syriac tradition, neighboring Muslims filed a lawsuit accusing the monks of practicing “anti-Turkish activities” and of illegally occupying land which belongs to Muslim villagers. The highest appeals court in Ankara ruled in favor of the Muslim villagers, saying the land that had been part of the monastery for 1,600 years is not its property, absurdly claiming that the monastery was built over the ruins of a mosque — even though Muhammad was born 170 years after the monastery was built.
Turkey’s Christian minority, including the Orthodox Patriarch, are naturally protesting this renewed Islamic onslaught against what remains of their cultural heritage — to deaf ears.
The Muslim populace’s role in transforming once Christian sites into mosques is a reminder of all those other Turks not protesting the Islamization of Turkey, and who if anything consider Erdogan’s government too “secular.”
Yes, it is wrong for the Turkish government to behave this way, and yes, we are very upset about what is transpiring in Turkey.
However, before getting too riled up, it is helpful to remember a few things.
First, the Church is a people united together in adoration of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not a building. While buildings can have great symbolic importance and can have great utility, ultimately God is more concerned about his eternal kingdom than he is of any earthly structure.
Second, the Turkish government should be reminded as to why Hagia Sophia was secularized to begin with.
According to a longstanding legend which has currency in ancient western sources and is known and believed to be true by most Muslims, when Constantinople fell, just as the Turks were entering the city to desecrate it for their pagan god, something very strange occurred. The dome of Hagia Sophia had been lit as though with light from the setting sun. As the Muslim troops entered the city, shadows began to slowly creep up the dome, as though that light were being extinguished. Slowly, slowly the shadows climbed up the dome, until the cross at the top of the dome was the only thing still shining. Then the shadows crept up the cross itself, and the light departed, leaving the dome in darkness.
Yet, this all occurred within a few moments, and the sun had not set. When the conqueror, Mehmed II, observed this, he was so shaken that at first he refused to enter the city. It took a committee of Muslim scholars to convince him that the portent of the light being extinguished was a good omen, and not a sign that the glory of the Lord had departed his cathedral.
During the entire time Hagia Sophia was a mosque, it brought the Muslims nothing but trouble, and the scuttlebutt in the Muslim world is that the building is cursed by God because it should not be used as a mosque. This, more than anything else, was the reason why the building was turned into a museum in the first place.
Since most Islamists base their whole faith on a sort of triumphalism centering on the destruction of Constantinople and the desecration of Hagia Sophia, it has to be hard to acknowledge that God simply does not want things that have been consecrated to him desecrated in the service of pagan deities. God may be willing to use pagans to discipline his Church, but that does not mean that he is willing to let pagan gods share his glory.
So, to all those Turks chomping at the bit to turn Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, one has to ask, you’ve been down this road before, do you really want to go there again?