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The Middle East As Net Exporter of Religion

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A Christian Church Converted Into a Mosque

A Christian Church Converted Into a Mosque

The grand church of Hagia Sophia (Greek, “Holy Wisdom”) was constructed during the sixth century CE on orders from the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and served as both the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and as a center for coronations and other major ceremonies of the Byzantine imperial court. For a long time, it was the largest church in the world. The great dome fell because of earthquakes several times between the sixth and tenth centuries, but was always promptly rebuilt. In plan, Hagia Sophia is a typical domed basilica, the domes and arches creating a covered open space of awe-inspiring height and extent. After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, ending the Byzantine empire, the Ottoman rulers converted the church to a mosque that became the model for many subsequent Ottoman mosques. Four large minarets were added to the complex, and Christian representational art was removed (icons) or plastered over (mosaics) in order to bring the interior in harmony with the canons of Islamic religious art (see image 11). In 1935, during the secularizing drive of the new Turkish republic and its founder, Atatürk, Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish) was converted into a museum.

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