Istanbul, June 28, 2022
Cracking marble floors in the Hagia Sophia. Photo: Cumhuriyet
Due to the large number of visitors in Hagia Sophia, the caretakers decided to wash the floors with a special machine. This is causing destruction to the ancient floors, reports CNN Greece, citing Turkey’s Cumhuriyet News.
There is such a large influx of tourists in the ancient Byzantine cathedral that serious damage is being done to the floors. As the cathedral guide said, the powerful floor cleaning machine that was put to use to cope with all the foot traffic is causing the damage.
The Union of Orthodox Journalists cited the same Turkish media last May, that due to the many tourists, as well as the Moslems who have begun to pray there since the church was turned into a Mosque, St. Sophia may suffer irreversible damage.
Archaeologist Omar Faruk Yavashchay said that the lid of the 500-year-old water tank was broken, and Moslems entering the building would place their shoes inside it.
He says that millions of dollars are needed for maintenance and repairs to preserve Hagia Sophia.
"Even if this is done now, it will become a burden for incoming governments, and after a while the budget allocated for Hagia Sophia will decrease," he said.
The Main Directorate of the foundation said that 18–19 thousand people visited the Hagia Sophia every day when it was a museum and not a mosque, but now the number reaches 40-45 thousand a day.
The president of the Art History Association Sharif Yashar noted that the Hagia Sophia is a very fragile structure, which is harmed even by the humidity of human breathing.
“When the Hagia Sophia was a museum, there was a scientific council that decided that even the humidity created by human breathing is very harmful and contributes to the destruction of the building, and recommended admitting groups of a maximum of 20 people. Otherwise it will shorten the serviceable life of the Hagia Sophia,” Sharif Yashar said.
The Hagia Sophia Cathedral was built in Byzantium in the 6th century and for a long time remained the largest Christian church in the world. During the Ottoman Empire, it was used as a mosque. In the twentieth century it received the status of a museum under the protection of UNESCO. In 2020, the Turkish authorities announced that they were returning the status of a mosque to the cathedral. The transformation was condemned not only by UNESCO and representatives of the Christian world, but also by a number of Muslim figures.
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