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Turkey Set to Turn Iconic Chora Byzantine Church Into Mosque

Chora Church Mosque Turkey
Chora is one of the most splendid examples of Byzantine art with preserved mosaics and frescoes. Public Domain

After Hagia Sophia, Turkey is about to turn the iconic Chora Church in Istanbul into a mosque, according to a Yeni Safak newspaper report.

The Chora Church, Kariye in Turkish, which functioned as a museum for seventy-nine years, will open its gates on February 23rd as a mosque for Friday prayers, the Turkish daily reports.

Chora is one of the most splendid examples of Byzantine art and still preserves mosaics and frescoes. The interior is covered with Bible scenes and portraits of Jesus and the saints dating back to the fourteenth century.

Chora Church Mosque Turkey
Mosaic of the journey to Bethlehem. Public Domain

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had decided to convert the church into a mosque in 2020 along with the conversion of Hagia Sophia.

Although plans were in place for its opening in October 2020, the decision to proceed with repair work was abruptly halted. It was stated that the “preparations for its conversion to a mosque have not been completed,” and the reversal was another surprising turn in the fortunes of the Byzantine landmark, which was one of the first Christian sites to be looted and pillaged following the Ottoman invasion in 1453.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou called Erdogan’s decision to convert the church to a mosque “an act of symbolic violence dictated by political arrogance.” The President said that it is an act of “cultural insecurity and religious intolerance, which condemns a treasure trove of Christian art and cultural nobility to obscurity.”

Chora Church Mosque Turkey
Mosaic of the Koimesis in the church. Public Domain

Chora Church, a site of immense importance to Greek Orthodox history

Along with the World Heritage Site of Hagia Sophia, the Chora Monastery is another site of immense importance to Greek Orthodox history and to the long and illustrious history of the Greek people in Asia Minor.

The restoration work has now been completed, Yeni Safak reports and specially designed carpets were laid to open prayers.

The mosaics and frescoes of the historic church have been preserved during the restoration, it was added.

The Monastery of Chora is located on the northwest side of the historical center of Constantinople and a short distance from the Byzantine gate of Adrianople.

It was founded in the 6th century from the old monastic complex. In the 12th century, the Temple was built, while at the beginning of the 14th century, it received a radical renovation.

Chora Church Mosque Turkey
Public Domain

Some of the best examples of the mosaics of Byzantine art are preserved to this day at Chora. It is a famous mid-Byzantine temple of Vasilevoussa in terms of architecture, and its elaborate decoration was crafted by Byzantine emperors. After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, it became an Orthodox Church and was later converted into a mosque.

Following the end of World War II, the building was repaired, and since then, it has functioned as a museum.

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