Just a month after converting the famous Hagia Sophia into a functioning mosque, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that another historic church has been turned into a place of Islamic worship.
The historic Chora church, one of Istanbul's most recognisable Byzantine buildings, was officially commissioned as a mosque on Friday. The mediaeval church contains several 14th century Byzantine mosaics and frescoes portraying scenes from biblical stories - but, much like the Hagia Sophia, the artwork was covered up during the Muslim Ottoman takeover in 1453, before being unearthed again when the building was converted to a museum 70 years ago.
On Friday, in an order signed by Erdogan and published in Turkey’s Official Gazette, the government announced that the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora was now officially converted, noting that “the management of the Kariye Mosque be transferred to the Religious Affairs Directorate, and (the mosque) opened to worship".
It is not clear when Islamic prayers will commence at the building. Many Christians reacted with words of lament and frustration at the latest action.
"To be honest, I find this one more painful," tweeted the Fr. John Meyendorff & Patterson Family Chair of Orthodox Christian Studies at Fordham University, George Demacopoulos, in response to the latest church conversion. "I always found it a more moving space because you could get so close to the Narthex mosaics and funeral chapel iconography."
Another Twitter user added: "Please pray for the conversion of Turkey, and for the restoration of Chora Church as well as the Hagia Sophia."
At the Hagia Sophia, curtains have been installed to cover over an image depicting Mary and the infant Jesus.