Once a synagogue, then a church, the 1,600-year-old Istanbul Mosque, restored

The recently restored Lala Hayrettin Mosque in Turkey has a very unique history. It is perhaps the only place of worship in the world that served as a synagogue, then a church, and finally a mosque.

One of the oldest places of worship in Istanbul with its 1,600 years of history, which served as a synagogue when it was initially built, converted into an Orthodox and then a Catholic church, then became a mosque 30 years after the conquest of istanbul after its fall into disuse, has been restored respecting its original form under the coordination of the Regional Directorate of Foundations.

The courtyard of the restored Lala Hayrettin Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, August 5, 2022. (Photo Sabah)

The restored mosque was reopened for worship during Friday prayers yesterday.

Erhan Sarışın said that the masonry on the remains of the mosque wall has the characteristics of stone masonry from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

Tomb of a priest in its foundation

“There is a tomb belonging to the Christian priests of the time in a tunnel that goes down to the foot of the place of worship. There are stairs to go down there. Unfortunately, these tombs were also destroyed by treasure hunters during illegal excavations,” Istanbul Environmental Culture and Historical Artifacts Protection Association (ISTED) chairman Erhan Sarışın told Turkish daily Sabah.

Sarışın explained part of the mosque’s unique history: “It is a building that first served as a synagogue for Jews, then as a place of worship for Orthodox and Catholic Christians, and after 1480 , for Muslims. Its history dates back 1600 years.. There are Latin marks on the square brick stones that we found inside the church. When we had it translated, we saw that there were 5th century stamps. This proves that the structure was built in the 400s AD. Also, Christian sources say that this place was established as a church in the 400s.”

The hatch of the restored Lala Hayrettin Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, August 5, 2022. (Photo Sabah)

The interior of the restored Lala Hayrettin Mosque showing the trapdoor leading to the tomb of a priest, Istanbul, Turkey, August 5, 2022. (Photo Sabah)

Informing that the ruined church building was converted into a mosque in the 1480s by Lala Hayrettin Pasha and put into use, Sarışın pointed out that the mosque has an important historical feature due to the presence of some of the most important manuscripts. important from the Quran.

On hold since 1935

When the Lala Hayrettin Mosque was closed after a law enacted in 1935 on the classification of mosques and masjids and the closing of those which were necessary, the minaret, the wood and the tiles of its roof were sold by the administration of the foundations of the time in 1937. , Sarışın said that after that date the mosque remained in ruins until today.

The mosque was further damaged and fell into ruins due to illegal excavations. “When we found it in 2018, there were nearly 50 trees and 10 garbage trucks came out of the structure when we tried to clear it. Later, our Regional Foundation Branch took over the project. We We found a charitable contractor to finance the restoration. After a year of cleaning, design and restoration work, the mosque is now in its current state,” explained Sarışın.

In honor of our mother

Melih Bilgili, who helped rebuild the mosque in honor of her mother, said: “My mother Emine Bilgili passed away. I had intended to build a mosque. But I decided to restore a historic mosque. Instead, together with my brother Osman Bilgili, we decided to restore a mosque that is a legacy of our ancestors and play a key role in opening it up for worship, so we have now protected the works of our ancestors.

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