Istanbul’s historic Hagia Sophia has reopened for Friday Jum`ah prayers for the first time in 86 years after being reconverted into a mosque earlier this month.
Towering over Istanbul’s skyline, thousands of worshipers filled magnificent mosque, with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan also joining worshippers in the prayer aired online via several satellite channels.
Earlier, crowds formed at checkpoints around the historic heart of Istanbul where police maintained tight security.
“We are ending our 86 years of longing today,” one man, Sait Colak, told Reuters.
“Thanks to our president and the court decision, today we are going to have our Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia.”
Though the mosque doors opened only at 10am, hundreds of people had arrived overnight, sleeping in the squares surrounding the mosque.
“This is a source of great pride for us, great excitement,” said worshipper Latif Ozer, 42.
History of Hagia Sofia
Located at the heart of Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia, a massive structure meaning “Holy Wisdom,” first operated as a church by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537.
Once a church, later a mosque, Hagia Sophia has always been the precious of its time.
In 1453, the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople under Muhammad Al-Fatih.
The Sultan ordered tuning the church into a mosque and for the first time, the call for prayer echoed from this place.
In 1935, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, transformed the building into a museum.
On the 10 July, the Council of State cancelled the decision of the Council of Ministers to transform the Hagia Sophia into a museum.