Future of Hagia Sophia

23 November 2018

November 22nd, 1918.

FROM the letters which reach us we know how deep and widespread is the desire that the Christian use of Santa Sophia at Constantinople should be resumed. It has been suggested that the question ought not to be raised, for fear of wounding Mohammedan susceptibilities. But Christians also have their susceptibilities, and Christendom has waited for centuries to see the restoration to Christian worship of a church which was built by Christians and for them, and which for two-thirds of its history knew no other use. It is no new idea; in the years when Russia looked to the conquest of Constantinople the dream of the Russian peasant was that the Liturgy might once again be sung in the great church of Justinian, and Prince Troubetskoy has lately developed with great force the mystical idea which underlies the claim. As the Mohammedan has at least always recognized those rights of the conqueror by which he himself alienated the church from its first use, we conceive that he may be no less sensible to the claims of justice. Santa Sophia is an important mosque, but it is not a holy place of Islam in the same sense as the Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem, towards which city Mohammed first bade his followers to pray, or as Mecca, which he afterwards designated as the sanctuary of Islam. Christendom, and in particular the Greek Church, driven from one church to another and now exiled in the humble church of St George in the Phanar, has an inalienable right which cannot be allowed to go by default.

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