Istanbul: Hagia Sophia imam returning to academia
Mehmet Boynukalin steps down voluntarily, reportedly set to return to Marmara University Theology School
The imam at Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia mosque announced Thursday he is stepping down from his duties to return to academic studies.
Mehmet Boynukalin, whose assignment at the nearly 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia was temporary, asked to leave the post, and his request was accepted.
He will continue his academic career at Marmara University Theology School, also located in the Turkish metropolis.
Boynukalin has served at the mosque alongside two other imams since last July, when Hagia Sophia returned to its status as a mosque, under the authority of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate.
In the past, Hagia Sophia served as a church for 916 years and 86 years as a museum, but most of its existence – 1453 to 1934, nearly 500 years – it spent as a mosque, a status it resumed last year.
In 1985, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Besides being a mosque, the Hagia Sophia is also among Turkey's top tourism destinations and remains open for domestic and foreign visitors.