The ancient Sheikh Süleyman Mosque has been opened to the public on Wednesday, after having been renovated as part of the Med-Art Education Project by the Turkish General Directorate of Foundations and the Italian Association for Architecture, Art and City Restoration.
The mosque, originally a Byzantine-era structure later converted to a Muslim place of worship, is located in the Zeyrek neighborhood of Istanbul's Fatih district in the historical peninsula.
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci accompanied Italian Economy and Development Minister Carlo Calenda at the mosque's opening ceremony.
Speaking at the ceremony, Kaynak said that the Ottomans and Romans ruled the world but did not resort to "cultural imperialism." Kaynak added that the restoration project was a reflection of that understanding.
"Together, we should empower shared values of civilizations rather than leading to their clash, like we do today with this project supported by the Italian government," he said.
Meanwhile, Italian Minister Calenda said the mosque was an important symbol, adding that the restoration aimed to "conserve" the signs in the building from "all ages," referring to its state prior to conversion to a mosque.
"This is harmony and it reflects Italy and Turkey's cooperation and relations," Calenda said.
The ancient mosque was initially built as a burial place, designed using the Roman architectural style, and was then transformed into an Islamic monastery by Sheikh Süleyman Efendi after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453.
Sheikh Süleyman Mosque was first restored in the mid-18th century, when an earthquake or fire damaged the building, according to historians.
During this renovation, a minbar - the niche where the preacher stands while giving a sermon - was added so that the building could be used for Friday prayers.
The building was restored once more in the 19th century during the end of the Ottoman era due to further damage caused by a natural disaster. On the other hand, the most extensive renovation work was carried out between 2013 and 2017, as part of the Med-Art Education Project.
Thanks to this project, the mosque turned into a conservation laboratory, during which technical expert teams from Turkey and Italy found the chance to exchange their knowledge and experiences.
The small building is an example of Byzantine architecture, with a square plan and an octagonal dome. Four niches are located in the corners of the building inside, while eight other niches covered by a dome vault form a burial crypt.
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