ROC comments on conversion of Chora Church into a mosque

A Christ-depicting fresco in the Chora Monastery. Photo:

The Russian Church believes that the Turkish leadership consistently ignores the universal value of the heritage of conquered Byzantium being alien to its understanding.

Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the MP DECR, said that by converting the Chora Monastery into a mosque, the Turkish authorities demonstrated "contemptuous indifference to Christian cultural values", RIA Novosti reports.

Commenting on the decision of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, according to which the "Kariye Mosque", as the Turkish conquerors renamed the temple of the Holy Savior Monastery in Chora, ceases to be a museum, Father Nikolai recalled that "the Turkish leader's pledges to retain free access to the cultural values of Hagia Sophia are not implemented in practice."

“Priceless mosaics remain closed for viewing throughout the day. Women have limited access to the premises of Hagia Sophia, which is turned into a mosque, and it is impossible to see the main cultural values of the ancient cathedral from the places available to them, the most valuable murals being closed for passage,” the priest said.

According to him, “now the same thing should be expected with the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora. But the mosaics and frescoes, preserved there under the layers of plaster and discovered by restorers in the years after the Second World War, are a true treasure of Byzantine art, illuminated by spiritual light."

Father Nikolai stressed that "the picturesque ensemble of the Chora Monastery knows no equal in terms of the completeness of its preservation, in terms of the sophistication of artistic performance."

He also stated that “the Turkish leadership is ready to continue to consistently ignore the universal value of the heritage of conquered Byzantium, which is alien to its understanding, and demonstrate to mankind a contemptuous indifference to Christian cultural values. All this by no means contributes to understanding, cooperation and friendship between our nations, peace and mutual respect between followers of different religions. It hurts to see what’s going on."

The priest recalled that Russian Orthodoxy successively assimilated the spiritual and cultural values of the Church of Constantinople.

“We are sorrowful to see how the last artifact traces of the once great civilization are now being hidden in the darkness – after its spiritual symbol, the Patriarch of Constantinople, chose not to be the first among equals in the family of Primates of Local Orthodox Churches, but its ruler and leader, having split the unity of the world Orthodox community. The result, alas, was the complete loss of any influence, even at home. It is regretful,” said Archpriest Nikolai Balashov.

Earlier, the UOJ wrote that the Turkish government intends to convert the Church of the Holy Savior from the ensemble of the monastery in Chora in Istanbul into a mosque, which for more than 60 years has operated as a Kariye museum.

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