A Turkish newspaper has published video footage showing fragments of building material falling from inside the dome of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, raising concern about the integrity of the former Orthodox Christian cathedral and the safety of visitors.
Security camera footage obtained by the BirGün newspaper dating from September 2022 shows pieces falling from a height and landing near visitors to the monument.
BirGün quoted officials as saying that “pieces are falling from the roof, due to the humidity created by the crowd, but no precautions are being taken.”
Commenting on the footage, Serif Yasar, president of the Turkish Art History Association, said that Hagia Sophia should be restored as soon as possible. “If Hagia Sophia is not restored, it will collapse with the first earthquake.”
He said that when Hagia Sophia was a museum, that is, before it became a mosque, the scientific council overseeing it urged that groups of no more than 25 people should be allowed to enter the building at any one time.
According to Turkey’s tourism and culture minister, Hagia Sophia has received 21 million visitors since it was converted into a mosque three years ago.
In September, it was reported that the Turkish government had decided to start long-term maintenance and repairs of the Hagia Sophia.
Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century as a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral and was converted into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, now Istanbul, in 1453. The Turkish government turned it into a museum in 1934.