Turkey's Hagia Sophia could open to visitors outside prayer times and its Christian icons will remain, religious officials said yesterday, after a court ruling paved the way for it to become a mosque. The sixth-century Istanbul landmark's museum status -- in place since 1934 -- was revoked on Friday and control was handed to the religious authority, Diyanet. Hagia Sophia spent almost 1,000 years as a cathedral before being converted into a mosque in 1453 and later a museum. Diyanet said in a statement on Tuesday that Christian icons in Hagia Sophia were "not an obstacle to the validity of the prayers". "The icons should be curtained and shaded through appropriate means during prayer times," it said.