Hagia Sophia imposes an entrance fee of €25 for foreigners

Hagia Sophia imposes an entrance fee of €25 for foreigners

The former Byzantine Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul’s emblematic monuments transformed into a mosque in July 2020, has imposed an entrance fee of €25 on foreign visitors since Monday January 15, even on faithful wishing to pray.

The new entry fees are clearly displayed on the esplanade in front of the main entrance, reserved for Turkish citizens only: an orange sign directs foreigners towards a side entrance and eight ticket counters lined up.

This entry, compared in the Turkish press to “a garage entrance” with its rolling shutter and security porticos, provides access to an open tunnel under the Beyazit minaret through which visitors can admire Hagia Sophia without disturbing prayers.

Payment also for foreign pilgrims

No doubt taken by surprise, few visitors showed up on Monday to pay the €25 entry fee: “it was free yesterday… they are surprised”, recognizes a young official responsible for directing passers-by, on condition of anonymity. The young man confirms that Muslim pilgrims, if they are of foreign nationality but wish to pray at Hagia Sophia, must pay entry fees like ordinary tourists.

The entry ticket gives access to the upstairs gallery and its museum, he underlines, arguing the need to undertake heavy work in the basilica built in the 4th century, then rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor. Justinian in the 6th century.

This decision corresponds to a new visitor management plan, on the recommendation of UNESCO, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, warned this fall.

Long queues

First transformed into a mosque during the capture of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia, classified as a world heritage site, became a museum by the will of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in 1934 before becoming a mosque again. on July 10, 2020 by decision of Islamo-conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Since then, the long queues that wrap around the monument bear witness to its growing appeal. A success held responsible for having caused damage and even vandalism to the imperial wooden gate, 7 meters high, due to lack of adequate protection measures. Historians have estimated that the monument is less respected as a basilica than it was as a museum.

But without attendance having anything to do with it, Hagia Sophia and its main dome are also victims of the countless earthquakes suffered by Constantinople and Istanbul and the frequent tremors which continue to shake the venerable building.

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