Three Hagia Sophias as Ideological Battlegrounds of Architectural Conservation

This paper will discuss how the conversion of religious monuments is a manifestation of dominance of one group over another through the stories of three Hagia Sophias (in Iznik, Trabzon, and Vize). Converting Byzantine churches into mosques became a customary practice during the Ottoman period, as symbols of Islamic ascendency, with Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia among the best known. Unlike other converted churches, Hagia Sophia’s name remained as Ayasofya Mosque, keeping its Byzantine memory alive. Similarly, the Hagia Sophias in İznik and Trabzon sustained their names, as the emblematic cities where the remnants of Byzantine past were still apparent. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic, these monuments gained another layer of symbolic value after their conversion into museums. Just like the minarets that had been added after the Ottoman conquest, now the secular Republic appropriated these monuments as the sign of the emergence of a secular Turkish state. In recent years, first Hagia Sophia in İznik and then in Trabzon were reopened as mosques after functioning as museums for decades. Meanwhile, Hagia Sophia in Vize, which had been left abandoned for many years, has already been reopened as a mosque without receiving much attention. The recent conversion of three Hagia Sophias into mosques glorifies solely the Ottoman past of historic monuments. Moreover, their recent conversion into mosques manifests the competition for dominance among early Republican and neo-Ottomanist ideologies, coinciding with the recent political climate in Turkey. This paper will focus on the transformations of three Hagia Sophias, which have been regarded as the ideological battleground from the Ottoman period until today. Concentrating on the conservation histories of these Hagia Sophias through archival research, the paper will reveal how these monuments have been the foci of contestation in different periods.


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Citation Formats
P. Aykaç Leıdholm, “Three Hagia Sophias as Ideological Battlegrounds of Architectural Conservation,” presented at the 23rd Symposium of the Comité International Des Études Pré-Ottomanes et Ottomanes (CIEPO), Sofya, Bulgaristan, 2018, Accessed: 00, 2022. [Online]. Available: