Russia to fund replica Hagia Sophia in Syria that will be used as a church

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is being turned from a museum to a mosque Photo: David Spender/Flickr

A miniature replica of the Hagia Sophia will be built in Syria backed by the Russian government according to the Lebanese news agency Al-Modon. The move follows the controversial decision by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to turn the historic Hagia Sophia site in Istanbul from a museum back into a mosque. Erdogans decree followed a ruling by the Council of State, Turkeys highest administrative court.

The Syrian replica will be built in the Western province of Hama. “Russia will provide the necessary funding to build the church which will be a miniature version of the Hagia Sophia,” says Al-Modon. Work is scheduled to begin on site later this month. The project is led by the pro-regime militia leader Nabeul Al-Abdullah who obtained approval from the bishop of the Greek Orthodox church in Hama. The Hagia Sophia planned for Syria will subsequently operate as an Orthodox cathedral.

Russia is an ally of Syrias president Bashar al-Assad. According to Al-Modon, Russia is “angry with Turkey” over its decision to revert the sixth-century Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov told the RIA Novosti news agency that “unlike Turkey, [Syria] is a country that clearly shows the possibility of peaceful and positive interfaith dialogue”, adding that “Orthodox Christians in Russia can help Syria with construction”. Both the Turkish and Syrian embassies in London had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

Hagia Sophia also features in the exhibition Shared Sacred Sites, which is due to open at the Cer Modern contemporary art space in Ankara this winter (October-December). The show opened at the Depo venue in Istanbul early last year when it included material linked to the Hagia Sophia site. In 2017, the exhibition was also held across three sites in Thessaloniki in Greece.

Crucially, the Shared Sacred Sites project focuses on interfaith dialogue “at a time when the Turkish governments decisions are further polarising Turkish society and simmering the fault lines between secularists and conservatives”, says the Al-Monitor news website. It is unclear if the Cer Modern iteration will include images of Hagia Sophia.

According to the Depo website: “The Shared Sacred Sites project examines a diverse range of locations in the MediterRead More – Source

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