The largest Byzantium monastery in Istanbul will be converted into a mosque after its restoration next year, Hurriyet Daily News said.
The Monastery of Stoudios, also known as the İmrahor Monument, 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 was founded in 462 by the consul Stoudios, a Roman patrician who had settled in Constantinople, and was consecrated to Saint John the Baptist. It was the most important monastery of Istanbul during the Byzantium era, also serving as the center of Byzantine intelligentsia. The basilica was converted to a mosque, during the period of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II. After two major fires in the 18th and 19th centuries, the monastery was mostly destroyed. In 1946, it was turned into a museum in line with a ministerial cabinet decision.