5 buildings that have been both mosques and churches
Architecture crossing cultures
Architecture crossing cultures
Throughout European history, religions have shaped communities and their interactions with each other. In some cases, the lasting legacies of these interactions live on within religious architecture.
Here are five buildings and structures across Europe that have been both mosques and churches during their histories.
This building was built between the 12th and 14th centuries as a Gothic church. It may have been constructed on the location of a former Byzantine cathedral.
The Cathedral of Saint Sophia, as it was known, was the site for the coronations of Cyprus’ kings until the Republic of Venice took over the island in 1489.
Following a siege in 1570, Cyprus fell under the control of the Ottomans, who converted the building into a mosque. They added two minarets to the exterior, which still stand to this day.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is now part of the Seville Cathedral, was constructed as a minaret during the reign of al-Andalus. Its accompanying mosque, the Great Mosque of Seville, was completed in 1176, although the minaret itself was not completed until 1198.
After the Siege of Seville during the Reconquista, Seville came under the control of Christians in 1248. They converted the mosque into a church containing a set of small family chapels. The building was subsequently neglected and then damaged during an earthquake in 1356.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the church was replaced with the current building, with a belfry added to the top of the former minaret. It is topped by a bronze sculpture known as the Giraldillo.
This building, which stands on Széchenyi Square in Pécs in Hungary, was initially built as a mosque by the Ottoman ruler Pasha Qasim the Victorious. It was completed in 1546.
Pécs was taken by the Kingdom of Hungary in 1702, when the mosque was converted into a Roman Catholic church. The interior and exterior have since been altered significantly. In 1766, the minaret was demolished.
This building on the Greek island Crete has been used by three different religions. Initially, it was constructed as a Catholic cathedral in the early 14th century.
During the Cretan War in the 17th century, Chania was taken over by the Ottomans, and the building was converted into a mosque known as Hünkar Mosque.
In 1918, the building was converted into an Orthodox Christian church. During the 1923 exchange of Christian and Muslim populations between Greece and Turkey, the Turkish Dervish sword, which had played a role in converting the building into a mosque, was taken away by the departing Muslims.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was modelled after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, was constructed in the 7th century after the structure that previously stood in its place was destroyed by an earthquake.
In 1430, the Ottomans captured the city and converted the building into a mosque.
In 1912, after the liberation of Thessaloniki, the structure was converted into a Christian church.
These are just a handful of the many buildings and structures that have changed religious hands during European history. While many of these changes were rooted in political shifts and power struggles, the buildings stand steadfastly as places of worship, whatever the religion.
This blog was made possible through Europeana's editorial grants programme which provides funding for writing that put a spotlight on underrepresented communities, voices and lived experiences. Learn more about the editorial grants programme and how to apply.