Serkan Alan / DUVAR

In a written response, Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy addressed criticism from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Mehmet Bekaroğlu regarding the botched restorations of a number of Turkey’s important historic monuments. 

Bekaroğlu referred to poorly-executed restorations of historic structures such as the Hagia Sophia Mosque in the İznik district of Bursa, the Mamure Castle in the Anamur district of Mersin, and Palace of the Porphyrogenitus in Istanbul. 

The late 19th-century-era Sansaryan building, built by Armenian architects as an Armenian school, which was later used by the Istanbul police department as a torture facility for suspects, also came under criticism for illegal restoration techniques. Ersoy said that renters of the building, which is currently being used as a hotel, were responsible for the improper restoration and were the subject of four criminal complaints from the area’s conservation council. 

Regarding the restoration of a 2000-year-old castle in the seaside Istanbul district of Şile that has been likened to the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants, Ersoy said that the restoration was approved by a conservation council but carried out by the Şile district municipality, and that mistakes in the restoration have been identified and corrected. 

Addressing the controversial restoration of the 13th-century Palace of the Porphyrogenitus in Istanbul, which in 2014 was outfitted with new wooden windows, a staircase, air conditioners, a new roof and aluminum guard rails, Ersoy said that the restoration was carried out by the Istanbul Greater City Municipality and that the Ministry of Culture was not involved. 

Other criticized restorations included the southern Mediterranean coastal district of Anamur’s 2000-year-old Mamure Castle, which was declared a tentative UNESCO heritage site in 2012, as PVC windows and cement plaster were used in the renovation process, while İznik’s 1700-year-old Hagia Sophia mosque was outfitted with frosted glass and glass doors. 

In recent years, Turkish state institutions and private companies alike have come under fire for what has been considered gaudy and destructive restorations of important historical structures and buildings throughout the country.