Two imams and four muezzins will be appointed to the ancient Hagia Sophia in İstanbul, which last week was converted back into a mosque with the approval of the Turkish president, according to a statement from Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate.
A magnet for tourists worldwide, Hagia Sophia was constructed as a cathedral during the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of İstanbul in 1453.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who critics say is chipping away at the Muslim-majority country’s secular pillars, announced Friday that Muslim prayers would begin on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Erbaş, who spoke to reporters after a visit to Hagia Sophia on Sunday along with the culture minister and İstanbul governor, said the directorate was working on measures to cover the icons, mosaics and frescoes at Hagia Sophia during Muslim prayers.
Hagia Sophia has served as a museum open to visitors for a fee since 1934.