Statement from World Monuments Fund regarding Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia has had many lives. First built as an Orthodox cathedral, it later served as a mosque and a Catholic church, before becoming a secular museum. We recognize this magnificent building and World Heritage Site is a monument of well-known historic, architectural, religious, and symbolic importance to communities both inside and outside of Turkey. Our primary concern is that relevant authorities ensure proper conservation and public access to the site, regardless of whether it continues to exist as a museum, or is returned to its function as a place of worship. 


Interior with Byzantine figural mosaics and frescoes, 1999
Interior with Byzantine figural mosaics and frescoes, 1999

About WMF at Hagia Sophia

World Monuments Fund placed Hagia Sophia on its inaugural Watch in 1996 and then again in 1998 in response to the threats facing this Byzantine gem. Water damage caused by cracks in the cathedral’s copper roof and rising ground water levels threatened Hagia Sophia’s fragile frescoes and stonework.

Work at the site took place in two stages. The project first focused on structural stabilization and repair of the roof, with the participation of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and the Conservation Laboratory in Istanbul. The second phase of the project focused on the preservation of the dome’s interior. Although the WMF project at Hagia Sophia was completed in 2006, other areas of the cathedral continue to require conservation and care.