Istanbul: The World Heritage Committee of the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO on Friday asked Turkey to submit by early next year a report about the state of conservation of the Hagia Sophia, expressing "grave concern" over the consequences of its conversion into a mosque. Turkey’s move last year to convert the revered Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia cathedral from a museum into a mosque sparked fury from the international community and added to tensions with Greece.
A month later Ankara ordered another ancient Orthodox church to be converted into a mosque. The Holy Saviour in Chora was a medieval Byzantine church decorated with 14th-century frescoes of the Last Judgement that remain treasured in the Christian world. Both changes reflect President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to galvanise his more conservative and nationalist supporters at a time when Turkey is suffering economic woes caused by the coronavirus.