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Posts Tagged ‘Hagia Sophia’

Blasphemous Erdogan To Pray Inside The Famous Orthodox Christian Church On Good Friday

Posted by addisethiopia on April 8, 2017

Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan has announced his intention to pray at the Hagia Sophia on April 14, delighting Muslim activists who argue that the building remains a mosque.

In 1934, Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk decreed that the Hagia Sophia should be a museum, as part of his drive for secularization. But some Turkish Muslims question the validity of that decree.

Erdogan, who has favored Islamic claims in Turkey, will visit the Hagia Sophia—a building that was originally a Christian church—on the day when the Christian world observes Good Friday.

The President will pray together with members of his party and the religious leaders in Istanbul. The event falls two days before the referendum, to garner the Muslim vote. Transformation of the ancient Christian basilica into a museum rejected. Erdogan: Kemalism is dead.

Thus Erdogan, nicknamed the “new sultan” for his political extremism, will seek to channel Muslim faithful in favor of a Yes ( “Evet”) vote. According to the Muslim calendar the month to April (Nisan) is the month of the birth of Mohammed.

The news is carried in pro-government newspapers, presenting the latest book by Turk historian Mustafa Armagan – titled “The Saint Sophia intrigue” (Aya Sofia Entrikalari). In doing so they seek to create and prepare the climate for the prayer, as the will of the Turkish president. The book argues that the decree signed by Kemal Ataturk in 1934 which turned the Hagia Sophia from mosque into a museum, is not authentic. According to Armagan, the Kemal Ataturk signature on the decree is false. Therefore the act has no legal value and therefore Santa Sofia can in fact be used as a mosque, as was the case after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Hagia Sophia it was built in 537 by Emperor Justinian and dedicated to God’s Wisdom. To justify his remarks, the Turkish historian reports that the Kemal Aturk signature on the 1934 Decree is unlike any other signature penned by the Father of Republic in prori acts.

Various sources are cited in the book which claims, according to the author, that the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a museum, was the result of pressure from various Western international forces, headed by the then US Ambassador Joseph Grew.

Mustafa Armagan also notes the news that Kemal Ataturk had visited St. Sophia in 1935, three months after its proclamation as a museum, was not reported in any Turkish newspaper of the period, but only by the Greek language journal, Apogevmatini, published on February 7, 1935, in Istanbul. The author recalls, in that same period, the strong reaction of the Egyptian newspaper “El Risale “, strongly opposed to the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a museum.

In this way the pre-referendum climate is becoming increasingly tense and polarized. On the other hand, the climate has been fostered and created by Erdogan himself with his recent statements against the Kemalist period, when he proclaimed: “That period, which began in 1923, is about to end. And that’s that”. And that is, woe to the vanquished.

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Mysterious Hagia Sophia Frightens the Turks

Posted by addisethiopia on March 28, 2017

From the moment that Constantinople fell to the Ottomans and Mohammad Fatih entered the Great Church of Hagia Sophia on his white stallion, he remained transfixed for a long time on the icon of Christ in the dome. This is according to Turkish sources. This immense Temple of Orthodoxy became the epicenter of different myths and legends which circulate among the conquerors eliciting an intense sense of awe for this great accomplishment of Orthodoxy which now is surrounded by four Ottoman minarets.

But during the last few years certain events centered around Hagia Sophia, and specifically with the unexpected discovery of an Angel in the summer of 2008 in the dome, has elicited among the Turks an intense sense of suspense and fear about the future. In connection with this, all those legends have resurfaced recently and at times have shocked and brought to the Muslims a sense of fear. This fear is that the Orthodox Christian identity will once again rise up in spite of the fact that up until 1934 the Orthodox Church was used as a Muslim mosque.

In this context of events, last January 20, 2012, the Turkish newspaper Sabah which has a large circulation, presented a rather astonishing article about “The Mysteries of Hagia Sophia.” It portrayed in a graceful way this climate of fear which has lately gripped the Turks in reference to the hidden things in the Holy Church and about all the things that will happen in the future.

The first significant element taken from that article is the indescribable fear which is revealed by the Turks concerning the hidden crosses, both symbolic and not, which are found on the interior of the Church and are also seen by the ground plan of the Church from above. As such, the Turks express great awe for the so-called “Cross of the Holy Apostle Andrew.” As is well known he is the founder of the Church of Constantinople. According to the newspaper Sabah, a Cross of Saint Andrew is found on the roof of the Church etched in a diagonal form. It is a significant symbol which not only was not lost throughout the ages of the Ottoman occupation but also dominates the area with its symbolic meaning. In addition to this, “The Cross of Justinian” freaks out the Turks. The legends as well refer to a very ancient jewel which is found mysteriously in Hagia Sophia and in fact comes from Egypt and it has great power. Generally speaking, the construction of this “Great Orthodox Architectural Masterpiece”, according to the same Turkish source, is based on the Christian symbol of the Cross and this reality generates a sense of awe and fear about the future return of Hagia Sophia to its traditional occupants, in other words, to Greek Orthodox worship.

But in addition to the crosses, the Turks refer to other mysterious and fearful things that are found in the interior of the Church. As is referred to in the legend, it is known that after the Church was turned into a Muslim mosque, the well-known Muslim Mihrab was built. It is the Muslim place of prayer found on the eastern side of the Church in the direction of Mecca. But great interest is found, according to the Turkish legends, to that which is in front of the Mihrab. A casket is buried there constructed of bronze gilded with gold. In this casket lays the body of Queen Sophia. Most likely her name is in reference to Hagia Sophia. This Queen Sophia and her casket are connected, according to Turkish legend, with a commandment that has existed for centuries up to the present day. This commandment directs that no one should ever disturb the casket, not even to touch it. If something like that should happen, then according to the legend it will initiate the rising of Queen Sophia. If this should happen then a frightful noise shall shake the whole structure of the Church initiating eschatological seismic events that will frighten the Turks.

This legend of Queen Sophia continues as follows. According to Turkish references, the casket is protected by four Archangels who are found on the dome of the Church. These Archangels, who the Turks believe exist, are: Tzemprael, Michael, Israfel and Azarael. The Turks say that Tzemprael protects the Byzantine/Roman Emperors, Michael protects the Church from hostile attacks, while Tzemprael and Israfel were those who proclaimed the events leading to hostile attacks. Tzemprael and Israfel were the angels that proclaimed the events of the warring efforts of the Byzantine/Roman Emperors. And these four Archangels have been assigned after the Fall of Constantinople to protect the casket of Queen Sophia from the danger of someone profane who might try to open it and bring about the Second Coming of Christ.

Another important legend which is referred to by the Muslims is the legend “Of the Hidden Patriarch” which is similar to the Greek legend about the “hidden priest.” As it is said in Turkish tradition, on the south side of the Church is a narrow passageway. The passageway leads to a very old web-covered mysterious door which is referred to in the legend as “The Closed Door.” According to Turkish references, when Mohammed Fatih entered Constantinople, the last Greek Orthodox Patriarch and his whole escort entered through that door which closed behind them. From that moment these people disappeared while the door remained hermetically sealed and no one ever dares to open it. Every year during the Resurrection Service of the Orthodox Christians, according to the Turkish newspaper Sabah, red eggs appear in front of this door. The legend is completed in a prophecy, which frightens the Turks, that when the door is opened, Orthodox Christian chanting will be heard in the Church again. This is why the Turks are frightened simply by thinking about opening this mysterious door.

The Turkish newspaper reports about a mysterious underground tunnel that exists in a central location in the interior of the Church. As is reported, there is a double door which leads to a big tunnel. This tunnel, as reported by the Turkish newspaper, leads to the Prinkiponisa (Princes’ Islands), and as far as the island Proti (Kiniliada). The mystery for the Turks is how this tunnel was constructed and what role did it play in the long history of the Church.

Another mystery for the Turks is the imprint of the sole of a large animal, maybe an elephant, which is found on the southwestern section of the dome. And here it is reported that this is in reference to some eschatological stories. According to the Turks this imprint is from the horse of Mohammed the Conqueror. But the question is how the horse was able to step upon a place that is so high on the dome.

Great awe is elicited among the Turks, as referred to by the newspaper Sabah, by the various mosaics which have been uncovered with all their glory during the last ten years in the Church of Hagia Sophia. This is in spite of the fact that the Muslim faith considers it a sin to create images of people who are related to religious events. They feel special awe about the mosaic which depicts Jesus with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist on the right and left of Him. The Turks have named them “The Mosaic of the Apocalypse.” And its symbolism opens up to us its eschatological meaning which is very intense with the Muslim Turks.

Specific attention is made about the mosaic which depicts known Byzantine/Roman Emperors such as John Komnenos with Jesus Christ and the Emperor Constantine Monomachos with the Empress Zoe. All of these depictions elicit intense awe about this Greek Orthodox Christian majesty and the inner power which emerges from these mosaics. They have generated different legends about their eschatological symbolism. These symbolisms are related to the Turkish phobias about the reestablishment and authority of the Holy Eastern Roman Empire with the blessing of Jesus Christ.

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Pope Francis Visit: Turkey’s Christians Face Tense Times

Posted by addisethiopia on November 27, 2014

  • “No country in the region – including Iran – is as homogenous in terms of Islam as Turkey”
  • The ethnic cleansing of these non-Muslim minorities was a huge brain drain”
  • Armenians were the other large Christian community. Hundreds of thousands were deported in 1915. They were either killed or died from starvation and disease. The label “genocide” is rejected by the Turkish state. From a population of two million Armenians, around 50,000 remain today
  • “Armenians fear expressing their religious identity here. Most of the believers hide their cross inside their shirt. They can’t open it and walk freely on the street because they could prompt a reaction”
  • New mosques are flourishing, while the world-famous Halki Orthodox theological school near Istanbul has remained closed since 1971 under Turkish nationalist pressure
  • “To be a Turk now means you have to be Muslim”
  • “The threatening feeling for non-Muslim minorities here is coming again.

It tells of a city where empires, cultures and religions collided. A building that bears mosaics of Jesus and the Virgin Mary beside calligraphy reading “Allah” and “the Prophet Mohamed”. There is no greater symbol of the clash of civilisations here than Hagia Sophia.

For almost 1,000 years it stood as the most important Orthodox cathedral in the world, the religious heart of the largely Christian Byzantine empire whose capital was then called Constantinople.

But in 1453 the city fell to the Ottomans, Hagia Sophia became a mosque and Christianity began its slow demise here.

As Turkey grew out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, that decline accelerated. When Pope Francis arrives here this week, he will visit a country whose population has fallen from 20% Christian 100 years ago to around 0.2% today.

‘Huge brain drain’

“No country in the region – including Iran – is as homogenous in terms of Islam as Turkey,” says historian Cengiz Aktar. “It’s a mono-colour country – it’s a Muslim country.”

After the Turkish Republic was born in 1923, it carried out a “population exchange” with Greece to create more ethnic and religious consistency. More than a million Greeks were forced out of Turkey to Greece while around 300,000 Muslims from Greece were relocated here.

The Greeks of Istanbul were initially saved but after a crippling wealth tax, anti-Greek pogroms in 1955 and mass expulsions in 1964, the Greek community was left in tatters. And so was the Orthodox Christianity they practised.

“The ethnic cleansing of these non-Muslim minorities was a huge brain drain,” says Mr Aktar, who has created a new exhibition on the loss of the Greeks here.

“It also meant the disappearance of the bourgeoisie because not only were they wealthy but they were artisans. Istanbul lost its entire Christian and Jewish heritage.”

Hidden crosses

It was not just the exodus of the Greeks that hit Christianity here.

Armenians were the other large Christian community. Hundreds of thousands were deported in 1915. They were either killed or died from starvation and disease. The label “genocide” is rejected by the Turkish state. From a population of two million Armenians, around 50,000 remain today.

Robert Koptas shows me around the office of his Armenian weekly newspaper, Agos. In 2007, the editor, Hrant Dink, was murdered outside by Turkish nationalists. Seven years on, Mr Koptas says the small Armenian community feels intimidated.

“Armenians fear expressing their religious identity here,” he says.

“Most of the believers hide their cross inside their shirt. They can’t open it and walk freely on the street because they could prompt a reaction. I don’t want to say all the Turkish population is against Christianity but nationalism is so high that people are afraid to express themselves.”

That is now the worry among the Christian minority here: that Turkish Muslim nationalism has grown under the Islamist-rooted government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister for 11 years before being elected president last August.

Dead missionaries

Mr Erdogan has made moves to support the Christians, such as passing a law to return confiscated state property to them and allowing Christian religious classes in schools. But he constantly stresses his Islamic identity, his support base is conservative Muslim and he whips up the nationalists here, the mood hardening against Christians.

Catholics, the smallest Christian minority in Turkey, have felt the impact.

A spate of murders of Catholic missionaries and priests a few years ago left the community in shock. At the Catholic basilica in Istanbul, there is Mass for the few.

“To be a Turk now means you have to be Muslim,” says Father Iulian Pista, who serves here.

“In the past, being a pious Muslim was looked down upon. Now Friday prayers are encouraged. Society here is becoming Islamised. Recently, I’ve seen youngsters defecate and urinate in my church. They shout ‘Allahu akbar’ [English: God is great]. I also believe God is great but the way they say it is threatening.”

Islam was sidelined from the constitutionally secular Turkish republic founded in 1923. But as a nation state was formed here, the religion became part of Turkish national identity, something that has sharply accelerated under Mr Erdogan’s leadership.

Old fears

New mosques are flourishing, while the world-famous Halki Orthodox theological school near Istanbul has remained closed since 1971 under Turkish nationalist pressure. One of the remaining Greeks of Turkey, Fotis Benlisoy, says the community feels squeezed: “The threatening feeling for non-Muslim minorities here is coming again.

“There are many reasons: language and policies of the government, the president and prime minister using more conservative references to Sunni identity, pejorative words for non-Muslim communities coming from members of the cabinet, so much circulating about Turkey’s relations with Isis [the Islamic State militant group based in Syria and Iraq] – all of this is making us think we might need an escape strategy.”

At the magnificent Panaghia Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul, the morning liturgy is led by Bartholomew I, “ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople”, a position still based here.

It is a reminder of this country’s heritage – and of a Christian faithful that is small but defiant. As modern Turkey builds its identity, the question still remains: can it embrace true religious freedom – or will nationalism stand in the way?

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