The Committee of the Australasian Association for Byzantine Studies has written to the International Association of Byzantine Studies (AIEB) on behalf of the Association concerning the change in status of Hagia Sophia and the Chora Monastery. The text of the letter follows.
Dear AIEB President Haldon, Secretary Markopoulos, and Treasurer Caseau,
On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Australasian Association for Byzantine Studies (AABS), and the Australian National Byzantine Committee, we join in expressing our concern about the recent change in Hagia Sophia’s status, from almost a century as a museum, to again be used as an active and functioning mosque. We have a particular concern for the Byzantine art, especially mosaics, and the preservation of the fabric of the building under its new administration.
This conversion is part of a worrying recent trend in the Republic of Turkey, which includes the handover of Istanbul’s Chora Monastery Church/Kariye Mosque from museum to mosque status, and the announcement that the extensive Byzantine mosaics in the latter building will be covered by curtains and may be inaccessible to visitors outside of prayer times.
We hope you will register our National Committee’s concern at this change, and the negative impact it could have upon scholarly work and visitor experiences of both Hagia Sophia and the Chora/Kariye Church/Mosque/Museum in the near future.
We thank you for your leadership of the AIEB on this important issue facing Byzantine Studies and Byzantinists worldwide this year.
Dr. Amelia R. Brown
University of Queensland, Australia
On behalf of the Australasian Association for Byzantine Studies Executive Committee.