Sakset/Fra hofta

Bysantinske kirker av uvurderlig historisk verdi omdannes fra museum til moskeer i dagens Tyrkia. Fagfolk er bekymret og sjokkert.

Nylig bestemte en domstol at Hagia Sophia-kirken i Trabzond ved Svartehavet skal miste sin status som museum, dvs. bevaringsverdig, og igjen bli aktiv moske, hvilket betyr bygningsmessige forandringer uten tanke på bevaring.

Bakgrunnen er en maktkamp innen den tyrkiske stat der islamistiske krefter ønsker å øke religionens makt og innflytelse, selv om det går ut over historisk verdifulle bygninger og andres tro og kultur.

Vedtaket om Hagia Sophia i Trabzond kan ikke annet enn sjokkere. Man frykter at noe av det samme kan skje med navnesøsteren i Istanbul: Hagia Sophia som ble bygget av keiser Konstantin, men ble omdannet til moske da Konstantinopel ble eroberet av sultan Mehmet II i 1453. Da Atatyrk kom til makten og Tyrkia skulle bli sekulært inngikk man et kompromiss ved at kirker omdannet til moskeer ble museer. Det er den balansen dagens AKP-styre er ved å forrykke. De legger for dagen en ekspansjonslyst som historisk interesserte og troende bør merke seg.


One of the most important monuments of late Byzantium, the 13th-century Church of Hagia Sophia in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, which is now a museum, will be converted into a mosque, after a legal battle that has dramatic implications for other major historical sites in Turkey. Many in Turkey believe that the Church of Hagia Sophia is a stalking horse for the possible re-conversion of its more famous namesake in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofya Müzesi).

For around 50 years, responsibility for the Church of Hagia Sophia in Trabzon has rested with Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The courts now accept the claim made by the General Directorate of Pious Foundations, the government body responsible for most of the country’s historical mosques, that this has been an “illegal occupation”. The court has ruled that Hagia Sophia is an inalienable part of the foundation of Sultan Mehmed II who first turned the church into a mosque after his conquest of the Empire of Trebizond in 1462.

Det er verdt å merke seg begrunnelsen til Direktoratet for fromme anliggender: det er en krenkelse at det som en gang har vært en moske ikke lenger er det. Det er en utålelig tilstand! Hva skal skje med den kristne kunsten? Tja, svaret er svevende.



“A building covenanted as a mosque cannot be used for any other purpose,” says Mazhar Yildirimhan, the head of the directorate’s office in Trabzon. He declined to speculate on whether this would mean covering up nearly half the wall space taken up with figurative Christian art, including the dome depicting a dynamic Christ Pantocrator. “There are modern techniques for masking the walls,” he says.

En britisk kvinne som har bosatt seg i Tyrkia og skriver Turkish Travel blog, har besøkt Trabzon og gir en utførlig beskrivelse av kirken.



Smaller and without any majestic pieces of art, it stands discreetly with the sea in the distance and no presence on the horizon.

For many years, I assumed there was one Hagia Sophia in Turkey, which is the architectural masterpiece standing across from the Blue mosque in Istanbul.

However, there are four of them, two in Istanbul, one in Iznik and this one in Trabzon. On first sight, it does nothing to impress but do not dismiss it straight away because once inside, it is eye-catching.

tyrkia.trabzon.Entrance-to-the-Hagia-sophia-in-TrabzonDa russerne invaderte var kirken lagerrom og sykehus. Fra 1958 til 1962 engasjerte fagfolk fra universitetet i Edinburgh seg for å redde et unikt materiale.

The church was rescued from dereliction (it had been used variously as an arsenal and a cholera hospital) between 1958 and 1962 by the University of Edinburgh under the direction of David Talbot Rice and David Winfield. This included restoring the original ground plan and removing a prayer niche constructed into an exterior porch. The church also has an exterior frieze depicting “the Fall of Man”.

“It is the whole ensemble—architecture, sculpture and painting—that makes Hagia Sophia unique,” says Antony Eastmond of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, who is an authority on the building. “This is the most complete surviving Byzantine structure; there is no 13th-century monument like it.”



Det nåværende Tyrkias behandling av kristen kultur er ikke tillitsvekkende.

Concern for the building is prompted by the fate of Istanbul’s Arab Mosque—originally a 14th-century Dominican church—also administered by the directorate. An earthquake in 1999 shook loose plaster from the vaults revealing frescoes and mosaics. The conservation of these paintings was finished last year but they were immediately re-covered.

Vil Hagia Sophia i Istanbul kunne ble reaktivert som moske, med alt det innebærer av triumfalisme?



Like its namesake in Trabzon, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was also turned into a mosque, after Mehmed II’s conquest of the city in 1453. It was famously made into a museum in 1935 by cabinet decree—unlike the informal arrangement in Trabzon. The re-conversion of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia into a mosque has long been the “golden apple” sought by Turkey’s religious right.

For such a thing to happen would have major implications for the country’s standing as a custodian of world heritage, according to one senior Western diplomat based in Istanbul.

Yet already the current government has been working on a list of historical properties administered by the Hagia Sophia Museum. In January, Istanbul’s oldest surviving church, the fifth-century St John Stoudios, which became the Imrahor Mosque in the 15th century before fire and earthquake left it in ruins, was transferred from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the General Directorate, which plans to rebuild it as a mosque.


Turkish scholars are also up in arms at the directorate’s decision to transform another ruin, the Kesik Minare in Antalya, into a mosque. The local chamber of architects has gone to court to prevent this happening. Originally a Roman temple, the Kesik Minare has a Byzantine, Seljuk and Crusader past. A plan had already been drawn up to turn the site into an open-air museum.


Recent experience suggests that the directorate reconstructs mosques without regard for the millennia of history they contain. The restoration of the sixth-century Church of Sts Sergius and Bacchus (now the Small Ayasofya Mosque) was shrouded in secrecy and completed in 2006 without the academic community being allowed to conduct a proper survey.



Similar complaints have been levelled against the repurposing of yet another Hagia Sophia—the fifth-century basilica in Iznik where the Second Council of Nicaea was held in AD787. It was a museum, but now it is a mosque. Contrary to accepted archaeological practice, the walls were capped with an attached rather than freestanding roof. “It has lost most of its original character,” says Engin Akyurek, an archaeology professor at Istanbul University. “There is a great difference between conserving a historical building and reconstructing it so it can be used as a mosque,” he says.





Det er merkelig at ikke tyrkiske myndigheter forstår at de leker med ilden ved å ignorere eller gjøre vold på kulturarven, både landets egen og det som tilhører verdensarven. Det er som om de sier at det ikke raker dem hvis den er ikke-islamsk. Når man da vet at de heller ikke vil vedkjenne seg folkemordet på armenerne, blir summen ubehagelig.

Korstogene oppsto i sin tid som en reaksjon på islamsk ekspansjon. Man bør ikke undervurdere religionens kraft, selv om Europa i dag ser ut som om det ikke bryr seg om sin egen historie.



Mosque conversion raises alarm
Christian art in Byzantine church-turned-museum is at risk after controversial court ruling