Hagia Sophia, edifice of discord? The former basilica, which became a mosque again on the initiative of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was the subject of lively exchanges between Turkey and Greece on Saturday July 25, the day after the first Muslim prayer in the Byzantine building.

Greece strongly criticized this conversion of Hagia Sophia, a sign of strained relations between the two states. And across the country, the bells of Orthodox churches rang in mourning.

"Greece has once again shown its hostility towards Islam and Turkey," the spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry reacted in a statement on Saturday. The ministry also condemned criticism from the Greek government and members of parliament, as well as the burning of a Turkish flag in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.

>> To see, our Debate: "Hagia Sophia: the mosque of discord?"

Thousands of Turks, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, flocked Friday, July 24, around the Ayasofya Mosque - the Turkish name for Istanbul's former Hagia Sophia - for the first Friday prayers since the head of the The state restored its status as a mosque two weeks ago.

Inaugurated in 537 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the Byzantine basilica Hagia Sophia ("divine wisdom") had been converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in the 15th century, before its transformation into a museum in 1934 by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, by decree.

The Turkish State Council ruled two weeks ago that this government decree was illegal, allowing Recep Tayyip Erdogan to issue a new presidential decree restoring the building's status as a mosque.

With Reuters

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