Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday led the first Muslim prayers attended by thousands in Hagia Sophia since the iconic Istanbul cathedral was converted back into a mosque.
The UNESCO World Heritage site in historic Istanbul was first built as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
The Council of State, the highest administrative court, on July 10 unanimously cancelled a 1934 decision by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to turn it into a museum, saying it was registered as a mosque in its property deeds.
Erdogan then swiftly ordered the building to reopen for Muslim worship.
He recited a verse from the Quran on Friday while wearing an Islamic skullcap after earlier recitations from the holy book in the morning inside Hagia Sophia.
The sounds of the call to prayer from its four minarets reverberated around the area and on Turkish television screens.
Erdogan said 350,000 people had taken part in the prayer in and around Hagia Sophia.