In 1934, under a secularist Turkish government, the mosque was turned into a museum. Some mosaics were uncovered, including depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Justinian I, and Zoe Porhyrogenita. It was declared a World Heritage Site under UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in 1985.
As a mosque, the mosaics in Hagia Sophia will have to be covered during prayers, as will as the seraph figures located in the dome.
The members of the eparchial synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America wrote July 19 that considering the inauguration of Hagia Sophia as a mosque, which they called a "program of cultural and spiritual misappropriation and a violation of all standards of religious harmony and mutual respect, we call upon all the beloved faithful of our Holy Archdiocese to observe this day as a day of mourning and of manifest grief. We urge you to invite your fellow Orthodox Christians and indeed all Christians and people of goodwill to share in the following observances."
The observances are "that every Church toll its bells in lamentation on this day. We call for every flag of every kind that is raised on the Church property be lowered to half-mast on this day. And we enjoin every Church in our Holy Archdiocese to chant the Akathist Hymn in the evening of this day, just as we chant it on the Fifth Friday of the Great and Holy Fast."
"Let us, in this time of grief and mourning, appeal to the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary," the Greek Orthodox bishops wrote. "She is the 'only Hope of the hopeless', and as we chant to Her in the Akathist, 'the Repository of the Wisdom of God, the Treasury of His Foreknowledge'."
The Greek Orthodox bishops concluded: "Therefore, with complete faith in the Foreknowledge of our Trinitarian God, and in the Divine Plan for our salvation, we entrust the future of our beloved [Hagia Sophia] to His Wisdom, and we supplicate She who is the very Treasury of that Knowledge and the Repository of that Wisdom to intercede for us, to comfort us, to give us Her strength, and to manifest to us Her counsel, that we may ever do and say that which is pleasing in the sight and in the hearing of Her Son, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, Who together with the Holy Spirit is worshipped One God, unto the ages of ages. Amen!"