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And Hagia Sophia Becomes a Mosque... Again

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.
A reader recently directed this question to TIA regarding the conversion of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople to a mosque on July 24, 2020:
I am writing to thank you for the website, and to encourage you to continue the good fight. This is why it has called my attention not having seen an article nor a comment on the recent re-opening of the Cathedral of Hagia Sofia for Muslim prayers.

Neither have I seen an article on the lack of official condemnation from the Catholic authorities (not that I expect one from them). I am sure many of us would appreciate reading your comments on this issue, as it seems as if nothing has happened. The only condemnation I have heard of is that from a Greek minister, and them having lowered their flag at half mast.
History of the Hagia Sophia

For some reason many Catholics think that the grand Hagia Sophia is still a schismatic cathedral and was just recently turned over to the Muslims as an ecumenical gesture of goodwill. It is not what has happened.

muslims pray at Hagia Sophia

Muslims pray outside the Hagia Sophia

In fact, once the Hagia Sophia was gloriously Catholic, built by Constantine I in 306 in Constantinople. The church was so named because Constantine dedicated it to the Holy Wisdom [in Greek Hagia Sophia], the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity. A half century later, fire destroyed it.

In the 6th century Emperor Justinian rebuilt the present-day domed Hagia Sophia to make it the largest and most grandiose Catholic Church in the world. He was so satisfied with the result that at the dedication, the Emperor proclaimed, "Solomon, I have surpassed you."

The sad part of the history begins with the Great Schism of 1054, when the Eastern Church split from Rome and usurped the Hagia Sophia, which became the seat and the most representative building of the Schismatic Sect.

The history descends further from sad to desolate

In 1453 the Ottoman Turks took the city and became rulers of Turkey. The sultan built a palace next to Hagia Sophia and transformed the church into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, ambo and baptistery were removed and the relics destroyed. The mosaics depicting Our Lord, Our Lady, the Saints and Angels were either destroyed or plastered over.

In the 20th century the Muslims changed the name of the city to Istanbul, but the great church continued to be called the Hagia Sophia.

From mosque to museum

For five centuries the Saracens held their services there. In 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk drove foreign countries out of Turkey and established a secular – not Islamic – parliamentary republic. The schismatics asked for the Sophia Hagia back and the Muslims wanted to keep it as their mosque. Atatürk decided to please international organs and decreed that it become a museum open to everyone.

benedict in sophia Hagia

Benedict XVI & Francis both visited the Hagia Sophia as ecumenical gestures

After Vatican II it was used by the progressivist Popes for ecumenical purposes. Offering examples of both Christian and Islamic art, the Hagia Sophia was visited by Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

In 1985 the museum was declared a UNESCO world heritage site, a symbol of the One World Religion so desired by the United Nations. This was the cozy situation for the promoters of a Universal Republic until Friday, July 24, 2020, when the Hagia Sophia returned to be mosque.

It was a symbolic victory for the Crescent, reverting that secularization made by Atatürk.

It is not at all certain what will happen to the 1,000-year-old icons depicting Christ and the Virgin Mary that adorn the massive walls and ceilings. They had been plastered over by the Muslims once and were discovered and restored when the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum.

The Turkish authorities have announced the images will remain but that they must be covered by a curtain during times of prayer. But no guarantee comes with the announcement.

Reactions to the transfer

Our reader noticed the general indifference or, at most, pacific disappointment expressed about what happened to the once Catholic Cathedral.


Muslims added the minarets when they took it from the schismatics in the 15th century

“Our response to the outrage that is being performed today can only come through prayer,” metropolitan Agathangelos of Fanar of Greece said in a statement last week. The American schismatic archbishop Eipidophoros ordered flags to be raised at half-mast and church bells toll in lamentation on the day of the mosque opening.

Francis did even less. During his July 12 Angelus address, he said he was “very pained” by the decision, the only comment the Vatican has made.

The Catholic Bishops of Turkey were completely passive. “Although we would wish Hagia Sophia to retain its character as a museum, it isn’t for us to intervene or even give our opinion on a decision which solely concerns the Republic of Turkey,” they said.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, released a statement saying it "deeply regrets the decision" made "without prior discussion." It was probably the more emphatic voice of dissent as its directors mourned the "loss" of a powerful symbol for dialogue."


And so we come to the requested commentary on this actual act of turning over Hagia Sophia again to the Muslims.

When the Hagia Sophia stopped being Catholic with its usurpation by the Schismatics in 1054, the changes that happened after that are circumstantial. It passed from the Schismatics to the Muslims, from the Muslims to the secular power of the State, and now it has returned to be Muslim. In these different situations the Cathedral passed from one schismatic/heretic usurper to a pagan or atheist usurper.


The Cathedral of Granada, conquered by Catholics in 1492; below the Cathedral of Cordoba


It is like a man who loses his health and suffers from different diseases through the course of the years. He can lament that this or that sickness is worse than the first. But, actually, the only thing that counts is that he did not recover his health.

Analogously, after the Catholic Church lost Hagia Sophia in the 11th century, the different sects that became its usurpers can be compared – the Muslims are worse than the Schismatics, the Secular Government is more relativist than both false religions – but the only thing that actually counts is that it is no longer Catholic.

We can lament that it has now become a Muslim place, instead of being a museum. But, it was also a bad situation when it was a museum.

What we should do is not to say that it was in a good situation and now became bad. What we should do is to pray that the day will soon come when Catholics will restore Christendom, starting by restoring the Papacy and thoroughly cleanse it of Progressivism.

We hope that, when the present situation will end and Our Lady will triumph over the Revolution, the Hagia Sophia will be Catholic again and have a magnificent ceremony of purification and restoration.

Until this happens, we can turn our eyes to History and admire how an authentic Catholic reaction took place in the Christian Reconquest of Moorish Spain that stretched over a span of almost eight centuries (711-1492), which ended with Christendom victorious.

With every Catholic victory, almost the first act was to seize the principal mosque and restore and re-consecrate it as a Catholic Cathedral or Church. That is what happened in Toledo (1085), Zaragoza (1118), Valencia (1238), Cordoba (1236), Seville (1248) and Granada (1492), to name a few more notable cases. (1)

I hope that, regarding Hagia Sophia, we can joyfully witness something similar happening in the future.

hagia sophia  
  1. Kroesen, Justin E.A. “From Mosques to Cathedrals: Converting Sacred Space During the Spanish Reconquest.” Mediaevistik, vol. 21, 2008, pp. 113–137. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Aug. 2020.
Posted August 7, 2020

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