Erdogan Announces Islamic Prayer at Hagia Sophia on Anniversary of Fall of Constantinople

A replica wall of the famous Byzantine-era walls of Contantinople was erected outside Hagia Sophia on Thursday as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a prayer to commemorate the 567th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople would be held at the site on Friday.

“I will take part in (festive) events in Istanbul to commemorate the anniversary of its conquest. Firstly, we will open a hospital in the Sancaktepe district. In the evening, the Al-Fatiha surah of the Quran will be read and prayers will be held in Hagia Sophia,” Erdogan said in a televised address on late Thursday.

Erdogan has repeatedly irked Athens by suggesting that Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site which now serves as a museum, could be reconverted into a mosque.

Built in the sixth century, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Greek Orthodox Church for almost one thousand years. It remained so until it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of the city, then-known as Constantinople, in the year 1453.

Turkey’s secular founder turned the structure into a museum in 1935, and it attracts millions of tourists each year.