The Turkish government on May 29 celebrated the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul with an Islamic prayer at the 6th-century Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Conquest Sura, a section of the Quran, was recited at the contested building as part of a program held by the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan joined the Quran recital via videoconference and addressed the nation in a speech.
“I wish from God for this nation to be endowed with more conquests, triumphs and successes. I present my gratitude to all who have not left Hagia Sophia alone on this meaningful day. It is very important for the 567th anniversary of the conquest [of Istanbul] to be marked with a recital of the Conquest Sura and prayers at Hagia Sophia, which has been entrusted to us by Fatih [Sultan Mehmed],” he said.
A firework display also took place on the historical peninsula.
Hagia Sophia, which was the main cathedral of the Byzantine Empire, was converted into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest of the city, then known as Constantinople, in 1453.
In 1935, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the modern Turkish Republic’s founder, converted the building into a museum that attracts millions of tourists, but some Islamic groups want it reconverted into a mosque.
Erdoğan, who himself previously recited prayers inside Hagia Sophia, has over the years suggested turning the domed complex back into a place of worship.
Greece has in the past protested the use of Hagia Sophia for religious purposes.