In Istanbul, the former Saint-Sauveur-in-Chora church reopens its doors as a mosque – Telquel.ma

Lhe Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who celebrated from Ankara the reopening of this emblematic former Byzantine church, ordered its reconversion in August 2020, a month after the reopening to Muslim worship of the ancient Hagia Sophia.

A thick brick-colored carpet now covers the floor of the prayer room, where removable curtains cover two mosaics, one of which depicts Christ.

The vast majority of the building’s frescoes and mosaics, however, remain visible, AFP journalists noted.

Built by the Byzantines in the 5th century, the Church of Saint-Sauveur-in-Chora, also called Church of the Chora (Kariye, in Turkish), was converted into a mosque after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, then in museum after the Second World War.

In addition to its millennial history rivaling that of Hagia Sophia, the Chora church is best known for its magnificent mosaics and frescoes dating from the 14th century, including a monumental composition of the Last Judgment.

Following the Second World War, the building underwent a lengthy restoration led by a team of American art historians and was opened to the public as a museum in 1958.

“I had the opportunity to visit the place before and I was initially a little afraid of the work (…) or the conversion but we must recognize that it is well done and that the frescoes are accessible to everyone. world. I am reassured and very happy”Michel, a 31-year-old French researcher on vacation in Istanbul, told AFP.

“It’s timeless, it’s something which for me is superior to Hagia Sophia, it’s better preserved, less touristy and much more intimate”he rejoiced.

The announcement in 2020 of its conversion into a mosque had raised fears regarding the fate of the building’s mosaics and frescoes, Islam prohibiting figurative representations.

Greece had denounced “another provocation towards believers and the international community”.

The reconversion of Hagia Sophia and the ancient church of Chora into mosques was interpreted by many observers as an attempt to galvanize President Erdogan’s conservative and nationalist electoral base, in a context of economic difficulties then aggravated by the pandemic. of Covid.

Both Hagia Sophia and Saint-Sauveur-in-Chora are located in the historic areas of Istanbul, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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