The silence of Hagia Sophia

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Last Friday, the Turkish State Council overturned a decree of the Council of Ministers of November 24, 1934 and allowed to change the status of Hagia Sophia from museum to mosque. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, without hesitation and a day, signed the corresponding decree, and from July 15, Hagia Sophia begins to function as an ordinary mosque. In Istanbul, by the way, there are 2 thousand 944 operating mosques. Now there will be one more.

Neither in Moscow, nor in Athens, nor in Rome, nor in Brussels this event caused any earthquake. A few template “regrets” – that’s the whole reaction. I think Erdogan himself was surprised by the ease with which he was given a new take of Constantinople. But he had been preparing for this step for a long five years, he furnished the decision with legal arguments, calculated the sanctions. And Hagia Sophia fell into his hands, without causing problems. But I think that the ease with which the current president has covered one of the most important acts of the founder of modern Turkey Kemal Atatürk under the prayer rug is dangerously deceptive. The problem is that having deprived Hagia Sophia of humanity, Constantinople will have to be returned to him. After all, his renaming to Istanbul in 1928 is a much more “voluntary decision” by the Father of Turkey than the transformation of the Sofia mosque into a museum.

In addition, Atatürk’s decision is also in line with other fundamental principles: in 1925, the country switched to the Gregorian calendar, and writing was translated into Latin, all citizens were obliged to have last names, in 1928 Islam disappeared from the republic’s constitution, in 1935- m Sunday instead of Friday was declared Sunday … So, all these decisions, from the point of view of the current Turkish authorities, were the mistake of the founder of the country?

And the most piquant, at the same cabinet meeting on November 24, 1934, state founder Mustafa Kemal received a new surname – Kemal Atatürk (father of the Turks). It turns out that Erdogan, recognizing the government’s decisions as erroneous, took his name from the father of the Turkish nation?

However, the transformation of the greatest Christian cathedral into a mosque after the fall of Constantinople, the rebirth of Sofia from a mosque into a museum, and a new metamorphosis marked and signify tectonic shifts not only in Turkish, but also in European political solitaire, although they look like a banal bureaucratic procedure.

Hundreds of volumes have been written about the death of Byzantium and the fall of Constantinople. There is not a single book about the history of the return of Hagia Sophia to the fold of European civilization: I will tell you this amazing story very briefly in its classic sound, and then we will look behind its mysterious backstage.

So, in 1931, an American scientist and ascetic Thomas Whittemore, on behalf of the American Byzantine Institute, turned to the head of the Turkish government Ismet İnönü with a proposal to restore the mosaic panels left from the time when Hagia Sophia was the main Christian temple Byzantine Empire.

Ataturk created a commission, which included nine people. Eight of them called for the cessation of religious rites in Hagia Sophia. Only a certain professor Eckhardt from Germany (!) Opposed, pointing out that “being used as a religious building, the mosque’s building is better preserved.”

On November 24, 1934, the Turkish Council of Ministers decided to turn Hagia Sophia into a museum, and on February 1, 1935, it opened its doors to visitors.

Thomas Whittemore himself described this event as follows: “St. Sofia was a mosque that day when I spoke with Kemal Ataturk. When I arrived at the mosque the next morning, an advertisement written by Ataturk’s own hand hung on the door: “The museum is closed for restoration.”

It is a pity that there is no place for a detailed story about Thomas Whittemore. What a human being that was! He himself was worth ten institutes and foundations. Whittemore saved hundreds and hundreds of prominent Russian people of art and science after the collapse of the White Army, pulled many out of the Cheka’s shooting casemates, gave a huge number of “extra people” work and a piece of bread, and, yes, he returned Hagia Sophia to humanity, not only motivating Mustafa Kemal, but and finding huge funds for its restoration and the geniuses-masters.

(One of Whittamore’s “pranks of the pen” was salvation … 18 bells of the St. Danilov Monastery in Moscow. In 1931, the Bolsheviks gathered to melt this masterpiece of Russian foundry workers of the 17th-18th centuries weighing about 20 tons into cast iron for the needs of the five-year plan. Whittemore learned about these plans, rushed to Moscow and managed to convince the Council of People’s Commissars to “take the money.” The bells for the currency were sold to Harvard University, where, by the way, they returned safely to their homeland in 2008.)

Whittemore has been doing incredible things for many years, but Hagia Sophia is his benefit. However, it was not only cosmopolitanism and the desire to bring Turkey to Europe that pushed to persuade the American ascetic Mustafa Kemal.

In the thirties, a young Bulgarian threat loomed over young secular Turkey … Now reading this, of course, is a bit “smiling,” but the “little brothers” laid claim to Turkish lands and ports, quickly armed themselves and flirted with Germany with might and main. Ataturk understood: the former Entente would not save him from the Bulgarian divisions. And then he came up with the Balkan Entente. Romania, Yugoslavia and, most importantly, Orthodox Greece entered into the so-called Balkan Pact together with Turkey. Without Greece, this union would have been a dummy. And the relations between Turkey and Greece in those years were much more intense than today’s bad ones. Two recent wars and a lot of blood shared the peoples. Athens agreed in 1933 to an alliance with Ankara was no easier than today, Kiev to sign a friendship treaty with Moscow. Yet in September 1933 this happened: the Greek-Turkish treaty was signed.

Mahmut Celâl Bayar (Mahmut Celâl Bayar), Ataturk’s fellow-party and future president of Turkey, revealed the secret of this diplomatic success: Hagia Sophia became a cherry on the cake for the Greeks. “If we turn Hagia Sophia into a museum, it will be favorably appreciated by Greece,” Atatürk told him. So Hagia Sophia defended secular Turkey.

Soon, however, she had to save her Muslim vestments. The Turkish authorities in those years, as is often the case now with Erdogan, punched change with an ax.

The famous cultural historian who worked at the Tan newspaper, İbrahim Hakkı Konyalı, said: “Once I met the architect of the archaeological museum Kemal Altan. He said with tears in his eyes: “By order from Ankara, we must demolish four Hagia Sophia minarets tonight.” I advised him to write an answer stating that these four minarets support the dome and, if demolished, Hagia Sophia “After that, the authorities decided not to demolish the minarets …”

Now preparatory work is in full swing in the former museum: they build lockers for storing the shoes of believers, cover murals with Christ and other images, and again cover the floor mosaic with carpets. Hagia Sophia is silent: for her 15 centuries she has come to see everyone. From its heights all this vanity and vanity vanity. The silence of Hagia Sophia is a sign of greatness. But the silence of the removal of the oldest functioning religious building in Europe from the access of all mankind, what does it mean? Not for Sofia – for Europe …


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Tuesday to “free” the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to him, the liberation of Al-Aqsa should be the next step after becoming a mosque in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

“The revival of Hagia Sophia meets the aspirations of Muslims around the world. It lights a fire of hope in the hearts of those who are suppressed and exploited. This is part of the process of returning Al-Aqsa to Muslims, ”the president’s official website quoted him as saying.

Erdogan takes an extremely implacable stance against Israel. His desire for hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean is essentially an attempt to revive the Ottoman Empire, which also owned Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located – the third most important shrine of Islam, comment on news agencies.

Pope Francis also joined in condemning the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. He stated that the news from Istanbul “deeply saddens him.”


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