Jul 25, 2020 - World

In photos: Worshippers pray at Hagia Sophia after status change to mosque

 An aerial view of Hagia Sophia on July 24.
An aerial view of Hagia Sophia on July 24. Photo: Directorate of Communications/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Thousands of worshippers prayed together amid the coronavirus pandemic at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on Friday for the first time since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the building would transition from museum to mosque, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Orthodox Christian churches in Greece flew their flags at half-staff and tolled bells in protest because the roughly 1,500-year-old building was the largest church in the Christian world for close to a millennium.

What they're saying: While devout Muslim supporters were reportedly happy with the transformation, many Christian leaders cautioned that the change could be "religiously divisive," the Post writes.

  • The director-general of UNESCO criticized the decision earlier in July, saying she "deeply regrets" the status shift of Hagia Sophia.
  • The Trump administration also said it was “disappointed” by the move, per the Post.
A child holding a Turkish flag inside Hagia Sophia on July 24.
A child holding a Turkish flag inside Hagia Sophia on July 24. Photo: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Protesters outside the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki on July 24.
Protesters outside the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, Greece, on July 24. Photo: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP via Getty Images
People praying outside Hagia Sophia on July 24.
People praying outside Hagia Sophia on July 24. Photo: Onur Dogman/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Inside Hagia Sophia on July 24.
Inside Hagia Sophia on July 24. Photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images
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