Turkish historian calls for Hagia Sophia to be closed
"If measures are not taken, Hagia Sophia will collapse"
If no action is taken, Hagia Sophia will collapse. This is explained by a Turkish historian and academic.
Publications in the Turkish press refer to the statements of the historian Ilber Ortaili about the Hagia Sophia, in a television program, following up on his opinion article a few days ago regarding the damages and the sought-after number of visitors to the Hagia Sophia.
“Can so many people be allowed into a 1.500-year-old building? What if it doesn't close?' the professor replied bluntly: “Of course entry cannot be allowed. That is why it should be closed and restored. Perpetual restoration. If they're smart, they'll close it. If it is not closed, it will collapse," said Ilber Ortaili.
He himself, in an article in the newspaper Hurriyet, on September 17, expressed his concern about the damages that have been caused to the monument, from its conversion into a mosque and beyond, pointing out on the one hand that Hagia Sophia must be closed for a certain period of time so that repairs can be made restoration work, on the other hand he emphasizes that he considers the annual entry of three million pilgrims, in addition to the number of tourists, to be disastrous.
Speaking of an urgent intervention in the number of visitors, he states: "Hagia Sophia is not a road through which everyone can pass lightly, as the underground buildings, and the constructions to ensure the flow of water, waste, the moisture but also the ventilation system are not so resistant to the presence of so many visitors and need to be repaired, cleaned and restored urgently. It is a continuous process that concerns the building itself", he emphasizes.
According to the professor, even the number of 20-30 thousand people per year, from scientists, historians, archaeologists, representatives of the Muslim religion, politicians and public officials could be considered excessive for the durability of the monument.
The professor is also critical of interventions concerning the operation of the monument as a mosque, noting: "Toilets and fountains that touch the daily needs of a mosque cannot be installed in Hagia Sophia. Places that dispense water such as large fountains cannot exist. The water consumed and flowing from the classic Ottoman fountain and today's toilets are not the same. Hagia Sophia has existed for 1500 years. It is not reasonable to use the toilets of Hagia Sophia for defecation. If every visitor uses the water fountains and toilets, how will the sewage system under this building hold up?''
According to Turkey's Tourism and Culture Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, Hagia Sophia has received 21 million visitors since it was converted into a mosque three years ago.
Two months ago, the Turkish minister announced projects to strengthen the stability of Hagia Sophia, in the context of the restoration of important historical monuments of Istanbul.
According to the restoration plan approved by the relevant committee, the cement mortar will first be cleaned, the aging lead surfaces on the domes will be removed and work will be carried out to repair the cracks and splits under the dome.
The lead cover will then be repaired and replaced. The first minaret, the so-called Bayezid minaret, will also be dismantled and, once the repairs are completed, put back in place. In the other minarets, the study of their static condition continues.
Ilber Ortaili is an honorary member of the Turkish Historical Society, a board member of the International Committee for Ottoman Studies and a member of the European Iranological Society and the Austro-Turkish Scientific Forum, advisor to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, former director of the Topkapi Museum.