The Hagia Sophia’s historic Imperial Gate has been damaged again, as vandals appear to have pried out one of the metal plates on the 15th century oakwood door. It was the second time the door has been damaged in less than three months.
The Imperial Gate is the largest of the Hagia Sophia, which was built as a church in the Byzantine era and is among the most important sites in Orthodox Christianity.
In 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan converted it from a museum into a mosque. In a New Year’s address to the nation in January 2021, Erdogan referred to his decision to convert the Hagia Sophia to a mosque as the “crown of 2020,” but the move sparked outrage throughout the Christian world.
Vandalism Following Hagia Sophia Conversion
Since that conversion, the Hagia Sophia has been vandalized several times, according to reports. Late last month, a number of tiles of the marble floors were damaged by heavy machines used to clean the site.
At the time, a Turkish newspaper reported that a tour guide at the historic site had pointed out severe cracks and damage. The marble floors had previously suffered wear and tear throughout the centuries, but the cracks in the marble tiles were recent, it was noted.
An image of the damaged marble from late June can be seen below.
— Dete Gr (@DeteGrPatras) June 28, 2022
In April, the Turkish Association of Art Historians said the Imperial Gate in Hagia Sophia had been badly damaged. Photos on Twitter showed that chunks of the wood had been ripped off.
That incident led Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to express his “sadness and disgust” in a call with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. The Hagia Sophia is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
At the time, Mitsotakis said the damage to the Imperial Gate demonstrated disrespect for the monument’s history, integrity, and universal character.
Following this latest incident, a report in Turkey’s ATV television network said the Hagia Sophia had become a “target of the uncivilized,” and listed the recent damage to the site.
“First, it was the imperial gate, then the walls and marbles, and now the emblems” that were taken, according to the report. “Every side of Hagia Sophia is sacred and that’s probably why someone considered it sacred and took it home,” it was said.
Mention of the latest damage to the site begins at 31:37 in the newscast.
In Byzantine times, the door was also known as the Silver Gates and the Beautiful Gates, but it has also been called the Door of Repentance.
Following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque, and many precious mosaics were destroyed.