Much Aya Sofia about nothing?
We are looking at the conversion back into a Mosque from the wrong end of the telescope.
Misplaced pain and angst in western media over the Aya Sofia, rooted in the narrative that somehow it's part of a European Christian cultural heritage now torn away into the nasty right-wing Islamist folds by a Turkish president with neo-Ottoman delusions. Not so, the controversial move by Erdoğan is purely political and Aya Sofia has always reflected the politics of the time.
Constantine emptied almost every city in the Roman empire of its pagan statuary to beautify Constantinople, the new Rome. And, two centuries later, Justinian took, among other things, the eight green columns from the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus to build Aya Sofia.
In 476 Western Roman Empire and Rome collapsed, and Constantinople became the largest and wealthiest city in Europe, the influences upon it were wide and varied, including from the Roman Latin culture, the Egyptian Copts, the Thracians, Macedonians, Armenians, Lydians, Galatians, and Persians. Greeks composed a small portion of this multi-ethnic empire, and most Byzantine emperors were not ethnic Greeks.
The Aya Sofia was the largest cathedral in the world for over a thousand years, a huge influence on and inspiration for future religious architecture, both Christian and Muslim. Then, in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade, it suffered the worst damage in its long history, looted and sacked, along with the whole of Constantinople, permanently dividing the Latin and Greek churches - Roman Catholics against Greek Orthodox Christians. For three days, the Crusaders murdered, raped, looted, and destroyed.
To be continued…