Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday ordered another ancient Orthodox church that became a mosque and then a popular Istanbul museum to be turned back into a place of Muslim worship.
The decision to transform the Kariye Museum into a mosque came just a month after a similarly controversial conversion for the UNESCO World Heritage-recognised Hagia Sophia.
The 1,000-year-old building’s history closely mirrors that of the Hagia Sophia — its bigger neighbour on the historic western bank of the Golden Horn on the European side of Istanbul.
The Holy Saviour in Chora was a medieval Byzantine church decorated with 14th-century frescoes of the Last Judgement that remain treasured in the Christian world.
It was originally converted into the Kariye Mosque half a century after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks.
It became the Kariye Museum after World War II as Turkey pushed ahead with the creation of a more secular new republic out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
A group of American art historians then helped restore the original church’s mosaics and opened them up for public display in 1958.
But Erdogan has in the past few years placed a greater emphasis on the battles that resulted in the defeat of Byzantium by the Ottomans.
Turkey’s top administrative court approved the museum’s conversion into a mosque in November.