Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan celebrated Monday – remotely – the reopening for worship of the former Orthodox church of Saint-Sauveur-in-Chora in Istanbul, closed for four years, while it was reconverted into a mosque. The Turkish head of state ordered in the summer of 2020 the reconversion of this former Byzantine church, transformed into a museum almost 80 years ago, a month after the reopening of the Hagia Sophia basilica to Muslim worship.

Built by the Byzantines in the 5th century, the Church of Saint-Sauveur-in-Chora, also called Church of the Chora (Kariye, in Turkish), was converted into a mosque after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, then in museum after the Second World War. In addition to its millennial history rivaling that of Hagia Sophia, the small church of the Chora is known for its magnificent mosaics and frescoes dating from the 14th century, including a monumental composition of the Last Judgment. Following the Second World War, the building underwent a long restoration carried out by a team of American art historians and was opened to the public in 1958.

The announcement in 2020 of its conversion into a mosque had raised fears for the conservation of the mosaics and frescoes of the building, Islam prohibiting figurative representations. Greece then denounced “another provocation against believers and the international community”.