For the second time in its history, Hagia Sophia has been turned into a mosque. The first time was after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Atatürk turned it into a secular museum in 1934. Last Friday, a court ruled that conversion to have been illegal. The first prayers will be held on 24 July, the anniversary of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The move is widely seen as the latest step in the Islamisation of Turkish society under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP.
The story of a village is inscribed on its tombstones. Families are listed by names and dates, their marriages, births and declines, the work done and the long struggle; how someone was shot accidentally, walking across a field, or succumbed to illness, or simply fell asleep. The village’s history is in its street signs and buildings, the etymology of its name and what might be left of a mill or forge, and the church, with its one good stained glass window, its few marks of distinction, coats of arms and hassocks embroidered with local signifiers. In the church or by the roadside, the names of another set of the dead are inscribed: those whose bodies never returned to their parish; the war dead. But 53 villages in England and Wales have no First World War memorial because all their men returned. In his King’s England guidebooks of the 1930s, Arthur Mee calls them the Thankful Villages. Fifty-three doesn’t seem like very many. Only 14 are ‘doubly thankful’, and lost no men in the Second World War either.