Turkey Demolishes Greek Orthodox Church Known as “Hagia Sophia of Bursa”

Credit: Nilüfer Municipality

Turkish authorities on Wednesday demolished a historic Greek Orthodox church in the region of Bursa, north-western Turkey, which had been abandoned.

The Georgios Greek Orthodox Church, known as the “Hagia Sophia” of Bursa, was destroyed amid warnings over the safety hazard posed by the structure seven years after the regional Directorate General of Pious Foundations took over the building from Bursa’s Nilüfer municipality, according to reports from the news website Duvar.

The municipality had taken over the historic structure in 2006, restoring the site and reopening it as the Özlüce Cultural House. But the directorate filed a lawsuit to gain ownership rights over the church in 2013. The building has since been abandoned.

The building was referred to as the Hagia Sophia of Bursa due to its use as both a church and a mosque in the past, Duvar said.

Nilüfer Mayor Turgay Erdem said that the municipality had spent about two million Turkish lira to restore the building.

“We have done our part to pass on a cultural heritage to future generations. However, the Foundations left the building to rot. For seven years, nobody claimed this structure,” he said, adding that the structure had become dangerous because of cracks that had formed and saying “There was a danger of collapse.”

Istanbul’s iconic 6th century Hagia Sophia was reconverted in July into a mosque, following the former seat of the Greek Orthdodox church’s 86-year run as a museum, in a move that was met with withering international condemnation.