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July 2, 2020
Museum or mosque? Turkey debates iconic Hagia Sofia's status
Analysts believe that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the issue to distract attention from the country's substantial economic woes.
By SUZAN FRASER and AYSE WIETING
The 6th-century Hagia Sophia in the historic Sultanahmet district is one of Istanbul’s main tourist attractions. It was the main seat of the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries, then turned into an imperial mosque after the city — then called Constantinople — fell to the Ottomans in 1453. It’s been a museum since 1935.
ISTANBUL — In its more than 1,400-year existence, the majestic domed structure of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has served as the Byzantine Empire's main cathedral, a mosque under the Ottoman Empire and a museum under modern Turkey, attracting millions of tourists each year.
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