Largest Byzantine monastery in Istanbul to be converted into mosque
In a move that has attracted significant criticism and controversy, the St John Stoudios (Imrahor) Monastery in Turkey, the largest Byzantine monastery in Istanbul, will be converted into a mosque and its name changed to the İmrahor İlyas Bey Mosque.
The Monastery of Stoudios, also known as the İmrahor Monument, was built in 462 AD and is one of the oldest surviving monasteries in the country. Historically, it was the most important monastery of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and its laws and customs were used as models by the monks of Mount Athos in Greece and many other monasteries of the Orthodox world.
“I wouldn’t like to speak as a member of a council but my personal opinion is that cultural heritage shouldn’t be reflected as an antagonistic heritage. If we reflect it like this, it will damage societies on a macro level,” said Laki Vingas, acting as representatives of the Directorate General of Foundations.
Vingas added: “My personal view is that when you are trying to create a new vision you should be careful not to create new problems for the future.”
The monastery is currently in a state of ruin and the conversion will take place after it is restored. The renovation of the building, follows the same fate as that of other churches in Trabzon and İznik, which have already been turned into mosques.
The conversion of a building from the worship of one religion to the worship of another religion has attracted significant controversy over the centuries. Many believe that a place of worship should be retained for its original purpose and historical significance, while others maintain that if a building is in ruin and unused it is better to be restored and used for another religion than to be left to rot.
The conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques occurred primarily during the life of Muhammad and continued during subsequent Islamic conquests and under historical Muslim rule. As a result, numerous Hindu temples, churches, synagogues, the Parthenon and Zoroastrian temples were converted into mosques. Several such mosques in Muslim or ex-Muslim lands have since reverted or become museums, such as the Hagia Sophia in Turkey and numerous mosques in Spain.
However, Muslims are not the only ones to carry out such conversions. There were many occasions of non-Christian places of worship being converted into churches in the early history of Christianity, which continued during subsequent Christian conquests and Christianization, many involving the destruction of pagan temples.