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Pr. Number: 188
Association of Greek Archaeologists
Press communiqué
The Association of Greek Archaeologists regarding Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey)
The Association of Greek Archaeologists joins with the international academic and scientific community in unequivocally condemning the change in status and conversion of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul from a museum (a monument open to visitors) to a mosque.
Hagia Sophia constitutes a monument of primary importance as one of the most remarkable architectural accomplishments in the world, a masterpiece, representative of a significant historical period. It remains an unsurpassed monument whose beauty and name became embedded in the culture of the Ottomans who conquered Constantinople in 1453.
Its operation as a museum since 1934 secured the unrestricted and uncompromised access of the public to the totality of the artistic riches it accommodates and simultaneously presented the multilayered historical nature of the edifice. Its conversion to a site of worship,in addition to global anxiety about material damage that may be inflicted on its famous wall mosaics and any other incompatible interventions, will restrict the historical horizon of the monument and violate its universal significance.
For the monument, the 24 July 2020, the first day of the operation of Hagia Sophia as a mosque, will be yet another milestone in its long history. However, for the 21st century and the global academic community it constitutes a step backwards, a setback, a blow, as,despite the international conventions that have been agreed upon and the international organizations for heritage protection that have been established, once again a spectacular creation of human ingenuity is being used for ends and purposes that are alien to those it should serve as a cultural treasure ofuniversal character.
The Association of Greek Archaeologists appeals to all international organizations to intervene for the protection of Hagia Sophia and the safeguarding of its monumental character, as should be the case in every correspondingsituationthat endangers our common cultural heritage. We call upon the international academic community to take all necessary initiatives to condemn such practices that placemonuments at risk.