In war-torn Syria, as citizens try to deal with an almost total breakdown of their society after their country served as a battleground for many opposing forces, Orthodox Christians have decided to build a replica of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
The new, grand edifice, which will be constructed with the help of Russia, will serve as a cathedral for the Orthodox population of the area.
The momentous decision to undertake its construction comes after Turkey’s decision to convert the original Hagia Sophia into a mosque in July.
Responses to Turkey’s controversial decision to convert Hagia Sophia, one of Orthodoxy’s holiest sites, from a museum into a mosque have been almost universally condemned, with many religious figures, academics, and world leaders voicing their outrage.
Many see the decision as a defining point in Turkey’s recent shift toward religious nationalism.
The complete replica of the historic building will be located in Al-Sqaylabiyeh, in the Syrian region of Hama.
The ceremony marking the start of construction was attended by religious leaders from both Syria and Russia. A message about the history of the Hagia Sophia was engraved on the replica’s cornerstone.
The inscription says that Turkey’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul was an attempt to erase history — but that they will honor the history of Hagia Sophia by building a replica of her.