Hagia Sophia – religious buildings and the history of their conversion

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From a historical perspective, the conversion of religiously and politically charged buildings such as Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is no new phenomenon, branching back to antiquity. A multitude of such cases can be found in all epochs, religions and regions, as the dossier "Hagia Sophia – religious buildings and the history of their conversion" shows. In a further the dossier traces the eventful history of Hagia Sophia with its interior and exterior changes from the 6th to the 21st centuries.

The authors are the Byzantinist Michael Grünbart and the Judaists Franziska Kleybolte and Katrin Kogman-Appel from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” of the University of Münster.

Religion and politics at the Golden Horn? By Byzantinist Prof. Dr. Michael Grünbart

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On 10 July 2020, the Supreme Administrative Court of Turkey ruled that the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) in İstanbul will become a mosque again. This undertaking is to become manifest at a Friday prayer on 24 July. This move of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan triggered violent, but also moderate reactions from political and religious representatives. Actually, this is less a religious matter – the Hagia Sophia has not been a Christian church for more than 550 years – than national(istic) affectivity. More

The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque. An event with historical parallels. By Katrin Kogman-Appel and Franziska Kleybolte

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Recep Erdoğan’s declaration on 10 July 2020 to convert Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque again is an act of serious political and diplomatic significance. Interestingly enough is the taking over, reusing and transforming of a religiously and politically charged space by no means an isolated case – neither within Turkey nor in the longue durée: for example, a museum – formerly a mosque – in the Turkish town of Iznik was re-converted into a mosque in 2011; the same was considered for the Turkish town of Trabzon in 2013; and it has also been a phenomenon in history since antiquity, found again and again in all epochs, religions and regions. The history and context of such transformations always have to do with changes in the balance of power and the desire to make these clearly visible.  More

The Fascination with Holy Places. Interdisciplinary contributions from antiquity until today

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The Cluster of Excellence has investigated the historical origins and changes of religious sites such as Delphi, Jerusalem, Medina, Rome and Byzantium. The scientists also pursue the political and economic interests as well as the cultures of remembrance that are still associated with the ancient places. Sacred places were often created in prominent places in nature, at springs, on mountains or in the desert. Religious communities linked mythical stories and magical rituals. The research of members of the Cluster of Excellence and external speakers has been incorporated in a lecture series entitled "Holy Places". They also deal with the death cult of the pharaohs, remote places of monks and hermits and the oldest sanctuaries of mankind such as the mountain shrine Göbekli Tepe. They open up different perspectives on the religious history of mankind. Representatives of various subjects were involved: Assyriology, Pre- and Early History, Egyptology, Ancient History, Classical Archeology and Philology and Byzantine studies as well as Religious and Islamic Studies. More