Istanbul Conquest Prayer at Santa Sophia Museum Square
Thousands gather to mark the 563rd anniversary of the Conquest of Istanbul by performing prayer in Santa Sophia Museum Squareront of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum Square . 27 May 2016 – 28 May 2016
Built in the sixth century, the Hagia Sophia, which means Holy Wisdom in Greek, was converted to a mosque in 1453 when the Ottomans conquered what was then called Constantinople.
Key dates in Constantinople’s history
330 AD: Roman Emperor Constantine I relocates the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Byzantium and renames the city Constantinople.
413-414 AD: Theodosius II orders the construction of 18-metre (60-foot)-tall triple-wall fortifications, which weren’t breached until the introduction of gunpowder.
537 AD: Hagia Sophia is built. Upon seeing its magnificence, Emporer Justinian proclaims, “O Solomon, I have outdone thee!” Hagia Sophia was served by 600 people including 80 priests and cost 20,000 pounds of gold to build.
1182 AD: The Massacre of the Latins (Roman Catholics) by the Eastern Orthodox population of the city further worsens relations and increases enmity between the Western and Eastern Christian churches.
1197 AD: Constantinople is struck by a severe fire which burns down the Latin Quarter and the area around the Gate of the Droungarios on the Golden Horn.
1202 AD: The Fourth Crusade sacks Constantinople. Crusaders loot, terrorise, and vandalise the city for three days. Many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works are either destroyed or stolen. Legendary bronze horses from the Hippodrome are sent back to adorn the facade of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, where they remain. Works of immeasurable artistic value are destroyed. One of the most valuable works of art to suffer such a fate is the giant bronze statue of Hercules. The great Library of Constantinople is also destroyed. Crusaders stole or destroyed all they could lay their hands on, even the tombs of the emperors inside the St Apostles Church were looted. Thousands of civilians are killed. Women, including nuns, are raped by the Crusaders. Churches, monasteries and convents are sacked, altars of these churches are smashed and torn to pieces for their gold and marble. The sacking of Constantinople in 1204 is a blow from which Byzantines never fully recover.
1261 AD: After 57 years of Crusader rule, the Byzantines retake their capital.
1453 AD: The city is besieged and captured by Ottoman forces led by Mehmet II. Under the Ottomans the city was called both Konstantiniyye and Istanbul in Turkish.
1459 AD: The construction of Topkapi Palace begins. It would serve as the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. It is now a museum and a major tourist attraction. It also contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, including the Prophet Muhammed’s cloak and sword.
1460 AD: The Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, is built. It has been listed No. 1 among the world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors.
1509 AD: A devastating earthquake strikes Istanbul. A tsunami and 45 days of aftershocks follow the quake. Over 1,000 houses and 109 mosques are destroyed, and an estimated 10,000 people die.
1918 AD: Allied forces occupy Istanbul in accordance with the Armistice of Mudros, which ended Ottoman participation in the First World War. Along with the occupation of Izmir, this mobilised the establishment of the Turkish national movement and led to the Turkish War of Independence.
1923 AD: The occupation ends and city became part of the newly formed Republic of Turkey. The capital is changed from Istanbul to Ankara.
1930 AD: The city is officially renamed “Istanbul.”
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Religion In Turkey Islam is the largest religion of Turkey. Around 90% percent of the population is registered as Muslim, mostly Sunni. The Shia Alevi community, a distinct Muslim sect, makes up 20% of the population. Christians (Oriental Orthodoxy, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic) and Jews (Sephardi), who comprise the non-Muslim population have dramatically declined since the early 19th century onwards from 20% to less than 1% today, and are continuing to steadily decline since the year 2000 as well. Turkey is officially a secular country with no official religion since the constitutional amendment in 1924 and later strengthened in the Kemalist Ideology, alongside the Atatürk’s reforms and the appliance of laïcité by Atatürk at the end of 1937. However, currently all public schools from elementary to high school hold mandatory religion classes which only focus on the Sunni sector of Islam. In these classes, children are required to learn prayers and other religious practices which belong specifically to Sunnism. Thus, although Turkey claims to be a Secular state, the enforcement of secularism in public grade schools is controversial. Its application to join the EU divided existing members, some of which questioned whether a Muslim country could fit in. Turkey accused its EU opponents of favouring a “Christian club”. Beginning in the 1980s, the role of religion in the state has been a divisive issue, as influential factions challenged the complete secularization called for by Kemalism and the observance of Islamic practices experienced a substantial revival. In the early 2000s, Islamic groups challenged the concept of the secular state with increasing vigor after the Erdoğan government had calmed the issue in 2003. The Turkish Government states that between 90% – 95% of the population belong to the Islamic Majority, but recent polls do not concur. In the most recent poll conducted by Sabanci University, 83% of Turks revealed they were Muslim. Of that, 16% said they were “extremely religious”, 39% saying they were “somewhat religious”, and 32% saying they were “not religious”. 3% of Turks declare themselves with no religious beliefs. In addition, only 13% of Turks have a favourable opinion of Christians, and 10% of Jews. Islam is the religion with the largest community of followers in the country, where most of the population is nominally Muslim, of whom over 75% belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. Over 20% of the Muslim population is Shia Alevi. There is also a small Bektashi community belonging to a Sufi order of Islam that is indigenous to Turkey, but also has numerous followers in the Balkan peninsula. More Recent Poll numbers show that Islam in Turkey is slowly declining. Islam arrived in the region that comprises present-day Turkey, particularly the eastern provinces of the country, as early as the 7th century AD. The mainstream Hanafi school of Sunni Islam is largely organized by the state, through the Religious Affairs Directorate, which was established in 1924 following the abolition of the Caliphate and controls all mosques and Muslim clerics, and is officially the highest religious authority in the country. As of today, there are thousands of historical mosques throughout the country which are still active. Notable mosques built in the Seljuk and Ottoman periods include the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, the Yeşil Mosque in Bursa, the Alaeddin Mosque and Mevlana Mosque in Konya, and the Great Mosque in Divriği, among many others. Large mosques built in the Republic of Turkey period include the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara and the Sabancı Mosque in Adana. The mainstream Hanafite school of Sunni Islam is largely organised by the state, through the Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi (Religious Affairs Directorate), which controls all mosques and Muslim clerics. The directorate is criticized by some Alevi Muslims for not supporting their beliefs and instead favoring the Sunni faith. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Patrik) is the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey, and also serves as the spiritual leader of all Orthodox churches throughout the world. The Armenian Patriarch is the head of the Armenian Church in Turkey, while the Jewish community is led by the Hahambasi, Turkey’s Chief Rabbi, based in Istanbul. All these groups share the same criticism of the directorate.