First Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia in 86 years
Istanbul: Crowds gathered in Istanbul as the historic Hagia Sophia site opened for Friday prayers for the first time since Turkish authorities ruled it could be converted into a mosque. Clerics in white robes sang from the Koran. Mosaics and frescoes of Jesus and Mary were draped with curtains.
The 1,500-year-old Unesco World Heritage site became a museum in 1934.
This month a Turkish court annulled its status, saying any use other than as a mosque was “not possible legally”.
The decision to turn it back into a mosque was criticised by religious and political leaders worldwide. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded quickly to the ruling, vowing that the world-famous site would be ready for Friday prayers from July 24, and he was seen joining worshippers at around midday (09:00 GMT).