A recently surfaced footage from September 2022 showing concrete pieces falling on visitors at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Mosque supported experts’ warnings about the 1500-year-old temple’s need for extensive restoration.
Şerif Yaşar of Turkey’s Art History Foundation spoke to the daily BirGün and said that the Hagia Sophia would collapse in the next earthquake.
Yaşar added that before the structure was transformed into a mosque in July 2020, it had a scientific board in charge of restoration and conservation. The board had suggested that the museum admit visitors in groups of 25 the most, as the moisture emitted from visitors’ breath was detrimental to the interior.
The board had also recommended the structure undergo extensive restoration, but the administration refused, saying it was the most lucrative museum in Turkey, according to Yaşar.
Yaşar said that thousands of people entered the mosque daily which was extremely dangerous. “The pieces fall off from the connection points of the dome, and the entire dome can crumble if it isn’t immediately restored,” warned Yaşar.
The expert also reported that there were issues on the upper floor of the mosque, where regular entrance is prohibited since the structure was transformed into a mosque in 2020.
Only special guests are allowed upstairs. Most recently, actor Travis Fimmel of the Discovery Channel show “Vikings” visited the upper floor, where a Viking inscription can be found. An aide to the Culture and Tourism Minister accompanied the actor on his visit.
The Hagia Sophia’s transformation into a mosque was depicted as a long-awaited victory and used as campaign material for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Changes to the structure’s interior were made for its mosque transformation. For example, the iconic mosaics depicting the Virgin Mary and the archangel Gabriel were covered up, and the floors were carpeted.
There were also various vandalism and damage instances in the mosque.