As the Hagia Sophia becomes a functioning mosque once more on July 24, SAT-7 looks beyond politics, and remembers Turkey’s unique and valuable Christian heritage.

Built in the 6th century under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. as a cathedral, the Hagia Sophia was the epitome of Byzantian architecture. For a thousand years, it served as the Cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and was used for imperial coronation ceremonies. In 1204, the Hagia Sophia was looted by the Venetians and crusaders during the fourth crusade, when the Byzantine Empire temporarily lost the city. From 1204 – 1261, the Hagia Sophia was used as a Roman Catholic Cathedral, and was then handed over to the Greek Patriarchate when Constantinople was reconquered by the Byzantine Empire.

In 1453, when the city was captured by the Ottoman Empire, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque, and four minarets were added to the structure. In 1935, as a building highly regarded as a place of worship for Orthodox Christians and Muslims, Hagia Sophia was transformed into a cultural heritage treasure, where mosque and church elements were exhibited together.

In 1935, the Hagia Sophia was established as a museum under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the newly established secular republic of Turkey. This decree was ruled unlawful in July 2020, and Turkey’s move to reclassify the Hagia Sophia as a mosque has been controversial, drawing criticism from UNESCO, the World Council of Churches, and international leaders. As a museum, the Hagia Sophia acted as a bridge, crossing religious and cultural divides, unifying people in a mutual appreciation of art, history, and architecture.

Reflecting on Hagia Sophia’s remarkable history in a news article in response to recent events, SAT-7 TÜRK states that “Decisions made as a result of the compulsion of certain political and religious ideologies dating back centuries should not determine the fate of a cultural heritage… The Hagia Sophia is too great to be under the imposition of a political material or an ideology, and most importantly, it is unifying as the common heritage of humanity.”[1]

In its role as a cultural channel in Turkey, SAT-7 TÜRK explores Turkey’s Christian heritage, educating the public about Christian locations, monuments, and archaeological sites right on their doorstep. Last year, the channel broadcast One Bike Seven Churches, a documentary combining a passion for cycling and scripture, in which the presenter visited the seven ancient churches mentioned in the book of Revelation. Ethnic Christian minorities who have lived in Turkey for centuries also have a platform on the channel, sharing their unique stories, histories, and cuisine on One Kitchen One Story.

Did you know?

  • The Ark came to rest on Mt Ararat in Eastern Turkey.
  • All seven ancient churches mentioned in the book of Revelation are in West Turkey.
  • Followers of Christ were first called Christians in Turkey.

Through informative documentaries and programs about Christian ethnic minorities and the Christian biblical history in Turkey, SAT-7 TÜRK ensures that Turkey’s rich and vibrant Christian history is not forgotten.

[1] https://haber.sat7turk.com/hagia-sophia-more-than-a-temple/

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