A huge group prayer in front of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, was held to commemorate the 562nd anniversary of the conquest, according to organizers.
A number of groups from Istanbul and across Turkey gathered in front of Hagia Sophia at 4 a.m. on Sunday as part of an event organized by the Anatolian Youth Association (AGD), which aims to open the Hagia Sophia museum for prayer again. The organization made statements such as “Chains to be broken, Hagia Sophia to be opened” and “Come with your prayer rug.”
Speaking to the crowd gathered in front of Hagia Sophia, AGD head Salih Turhan called for the museum to be turned into a mosque again. “You demonstrated an important stance by coming here from all different parts of Turkey to break the chains of Hagia Sophia,” Turhan said. AGD Istanbul head Ali Uğur Bulut defined Hagia Sophia as the symbol of Istanbul and the conquest, stating that it is unacceptable to remain closed for prayer.
The Hagia Sophia museum was first dedicated as an Orthodox patriarchal basilica in the year 360. Until 1453 it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, as the city was then named. Following the city’s conquest by the Ottoman Empire, the building was turned into a mosque until 1931, when it was closed to the public for four years. It was reopened by the Turkish authorities in 1935 as a museum.