PROTEST RESOLUTION ON CHORA MONASTERY
OF THE EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR BYZANTINE AND POSTBYZANTINE MONUMENTS
Lately, the international scientific community has been watching with surprise and dismay the conversion of two of the world’s most important Byzantine monuments into mosques. After the unacceptable act of converting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, which entails the immediate covering of all its bright mosaics decoration with fabrics, now the second Byzantine monument, protected by UNESCO, which until recently functioned as a museum, is to be converted into a mosque and to undergo the repulsive covering of its decoration in order to function as a Muslim mosque.
The Chora Monastery is the leading monument of the Palaeologian Renaissance in Constantinople, preserves the largest set of mosaic decoration, a rare example of the high art and aesthetics that developed in the capital of Byzantium during the last period of its history. The unique wealth of the iconographic programs, both the mosaic compositions in the church and the frescoes in the chapel, is a living witness to the history of Byzantium, revealing to us unknown aspects of the mindset and ideology of the late Middle Ages of the Christian East. The decoration of this monument heralds the Renaissance, which a little later would flourish in the West.
In 2020, when all of humanity has made huge strides compared to earlier eras of mutual respect and understanding between different religions and cultures, actions like this are a sign not just of stagnation, but of backsliding. We, therefore, express our deep disappointment at the lack of the respect, that is expected also by the entire international community, towards yet another monument of world cultural heritage that is being crushed, concealing its rich, glorious and impressive decoration, on the altar of nationalist actions. In a city that includes Muslim mosques of outstanding Islamic art, we wonder what the need is for the brutal alteration of another great Byzantine monument.