The Friday prayers marked the monument’s reopening for worship after Turkish President President Tayyip Erdogan declared it to be a mosque once more. Prayer mats were laid out in Sultanahmet Square as the call to prayer rang out, RT reported.
A holy site for Christians and Muslims for almost 1,500 years, the Hagia Sophia was initially built in 537 as a cathedral in the Byzantine Empire, before being seized by the Ottoman Empire 900 years later and converted into a mosque until 1934, when it became a museum.
It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985, with the organization’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay having said previously that she “deeply regrets” the decision by a Turkish court to annul the monument’s status as a museum earlier this month.
Authorities say the site will remain open to all visitors despite its renewed status as a mosque, and that its Christian artworks would be protected.