Greece has slammed Turkey’s move to convert the Chora museum, the 1,000-year-old former Byzantine Greek Orthodox church, into a mosque, saying it was “totally condemnable”.
In a statement on Friday, the Greek Foreign Ministry said that after converting the iconic Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque and despite international criticism, Turkey is now brutally insulting “the character of another Unesco cultural heritage monument within the Turkish territory”, reports Xinhua news agency.
Also known as Kariye, the Chora museum located in Istanbul was built in the 4th century as part of a monastery complex.
The Holy Saviour in Chora was comprehensively rebuilt around 1077-81 and again after a partial collapse following an earthquake early in the 12th century, reports Hurriyet Daiily News.
The iconic site was a medieval Byzantine church decorated with 14th-century frescoes of the Last Judgement that remain treasured in the Christian world.
It was originally converted into the Kariye Mosque half a century after the 1453 conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Empire.
It became the Kariye museum after World War II, and a group of American art historians then helped restore the original church’s mosaics and opened them up for public display in 1958.
The decision to transform the Chora museum into a mosque came just a month after a similar conversion of the 5th-century Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, also a Unesco World Heritage site.
It drew strong reactions from Greece and many other countries.
After the collapse of the Byzantine empire to Ottoman rule in the 15th century, both former Greek Orthodox Christian churches were converted into mosques and opened as museums in the 20th century.
However, in recent months, the Turkish State Council ruled that the status of the two monuments can change, and then reconverted them into mosques.
The first Friday prayers at the Hagia Sophia was held on July 24 after several decades.