Completed in 537 A.D, the Hagia Sophia was the focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly a millennia before Constantinople fell to Muslim conquest in 1453, where it was made into a mosque.
Despite being designated a museum In 1935 under a secularist Turkish government, Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan declared the Byzantine cathedral a mosque once again – a decision which Pope Francis says pained him.
Now a couple weeks after the decree was signed, Syria announced they will build a replica of the Hagia Sophia in protest of Erdogan’s decision.
Bishop Nicola Baalbaki, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Hama, announced he had approved the construction of a replica Hagia Sophia in the city of Suqaylabiyah with a large population of Greek Orthodox.
The idea came from National Defense Forces milita leader Nabeul Al-Abdullah, who obtained approval from Bishop Baalbaki, donated land for the construction, and secured support from Russian officials who are now helping plan the replica’s construction.
Russian MP Vitaly Milonov said: “unlike Turkey, Syria is a country that clearly shows the possibility of peaceful and positive interfaith dialogue. President Bashar al-Assad would never transfer a cathedral from one denomination to another. This will truly be a landmark event for all Orthodox people; I am sure that every Orthodox Christian wants his name to be inscribed in at least a stone or brick of the new Hagia Sophia.”
Milonov said Moscow will provide funding for the project “to show the importance of ‘peaceful dialogue’ between faiths.”