Erdogan: Istanbul's Hagia Sophia could be turned into mosque

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Istanbul's Hagia Sophia — a Byzantine-era cathedral that was turned into a mosque and now serves as a museum — could be reconverted into a mosque.

Erdogan spoke during a television interview Sunday ahead of Turkey's March 31 local elections.

The former Byzantine cathedral was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. Turkey's secular founder turned the structure into a museum in 1935 that attracts millions of tourists each year.

There have been increasing calls for the government to convert the symbolic structure back into a mosque, especially following reports that the gunman who killed Muslim worshippers in New Zealand left a manifesto saying the Hagia Sophia would be "free of minarets."