First Muslim prayer in Hagia Sophia on July 24

The first Muslim prayer in the iconic Hagia Sophia since the early 1930s will come on July 24, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, hours after Turkey’s highest administrative court essentially annulled a 1934 ministerial decision turning the cathedral-cum mosque into a museum.

Erdogan appeared to make good on his repeated pledges to reconvert the monument, the pre-eminent Christian Orthodox cathedral for nearly a millennium, into a Muslim place of worship

He added that the “Ayasofia mosque”, using the Turkified name of the early Byzantine-era basilica, will be “open to all, Muslims, Christians, and all foreigners.”

The threat to change the UNESCO World Heritage site’s status has generated heightened international criticism and opposition, while in predominately Orthodox Greece the development is being followed closely by public opinion – perceived in many quarters as an anti-Greek and anti-Christian move by the increasingly authoritarian and Islamist-leaning Erdogan.