The largest Byzantium monastery in Istanbul will be converted into a mosque after its restoration next year.
The Monastery of Stoudios, \will be turned into a mosque and be titled İmrahor İlyas Bey Mosque. The renovation of the mosque, which forms part of the Hagia Sophia Museum, will follow the same fate as that of Hagia Sophia churches in Trabzon and İznik, which had been already turned into mosques.
“I wouldn’t like to speak as a member of a council but my personal opinion is that cultural heritage shouldn’t be reflected as an antagonistic heritage. If we reflect it like this, it will damage societies on a macro level,” said Laki Vingas, acting as representatives of the Directorate General of Foundations.
Vingas added that the issue creates grief within society, and it was not only the Greek community’s problem.
“Cultural heritage is universal heritages, meaning that they are humanity’s common heritage,” he said.
İmrahor’s conversion into a mosque came at a time debate continues as to whether to reopen Hagia Sophia as a place of worship. Most recently, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has expressed his hope to see the Hagia Sophia to be used as a mosque.
Vingas said: “My personal view is that when you are trying to create a new vision you should be careful not to create new problems for the future.”
The monastery of Stoudios, also known as, the monastery of the “sleepless monks” was one of the greatest monasteries of the Eastern Roman Empire, built on the seventh hill of Constantinople. Its contribution to the religious, political and cultural life of the city was significant. For centuries it was the spiritual centre of the Empire and the orthodox world. It was probably founded before 454 AD. In 1481 it was converted into a mosque. In 1782 it was burned, in 1894 it was hit by an earthquake and in 1920 it was burned again. Today, only the ruins of the monastery have been salvaged.
The unique mosaic floor of the 13th century with the geometrical shapes and the representations of animals has no protection against the damages of time and the weather. The remnants of the huge building that were spread around the temple, have been used thoughtlessly by neighbors as building materials, especially after the great fire of 1920.