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Istanbul Churches and Synagogues

Bulgarian St. Stephen Church

The Bulgarian St Stephen Church, also known as the Bulgarian Iron Church, is a Bulgarian Orthodox church in Istanbul, famous for being made of cast iron.

The altar of the church faces the Golden Horn and a 40 m-high belfry, the six bells of which were cast in Yaroslavl, rises above the narthex. The church belongs to the Bulgarian minority in the city. The Bulgarians of the Ottoman Empire used to pray at the churches of the Phanar Orthodox Patriarchy, but due to nationalistic movements, Bulgarians were allowed a national church in the 19th century, the Bulgarian Exarchate.

In addition to the St Stephen Church, there is another Bulgarian Orthodox church in Istanbul — the St Demetrius Church in Ferikoy.

 

Chora Mosque

This museum, which is considered by some to be the most interesting Byzantine Church in Istanbul due to its magnificent mosaics and frecoes, was originally built in the late 11th century by Maria Doukaina , the mother in law of Emperor Alexius I Commenus, on the remains of and earlier Byzantine church.

It was converted into a mosque in 1511 by the Grand Vezir Atik Ali Pacha during the reign of Sultan Beyazid II, and the mosaics were subsequently plastered over.

In the 1948 the mosque was turned into a museum and between the years 1947-1952, a team of American restoration experts uncovered the valuable mosaics which had been for centuries covered with plaster. These mosaics are amonth the greatest examples of Byzantine art in existence today.

 

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

Istanbul is also important as being the center of one of the biggest debates in the Christian world since the 6th century as The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is located in Fener (Phanar) neighbourhood of Fatih district.

After the conquest of Constantinople by Turks, Sultan Mehmed The Conqueror granted legal protection to the Greek Orthodox Partriachate in Istanbul.

The Patriachate was originally located in The Havariun Church, in today's Fatih district. The church was built on grounds of the Constantinus's mausoleum. (Some sources say that the Church was orderd to be built by Constantinus himself.) Later on the Patriachate was moved to Pammakaristos Monastery (Today's Fethiye Mosque) due to decreasing number of the christian population and security reasons in 1455.  (Later on Sultan Mehmet built the Fatih Mosque on the Havariun Church's site.)

Pammakaristos Church was relatively smaller than the The Havariun Church, and it was restored and expanded in 1518. After, the Patriarchate moved to Vlah Palace Church in Fener, then to Ayios Dimitrios Church in Ayvansaray districts. Finally it was moved to Ayios Yeoryios Monastery in Phanar district in 1602.

The Patriache, was considered a Vezier in the Ottoman government and also attended Divan meetings at the palace. Also was exempt from taxes, had legal decision rights for the issues among the orthodox people of the empire, and perhaps had more power over the Orthodox citizens of the empire than ever before during the Ottoman period. 

 

Hagia Eirene

Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene is a former Eastern Orthodox church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. It is open as a museum every day except Monday, but requires special permission for admission.

The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman emperor Constantine I commissioned the Hagia Irene church in the 4th century. It was burned down during the Nike revolt in 532. Emperor Justinian I had the church restored in 548. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was completed in 537.
Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene is a former Eastern Orthodox church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. It is open as a museum every day except Monday, but requires special permission for admission.    

The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman emperor Constantine I commissioned the Hagia Irene church in the 4th century. It was burned down during the Nike revolt in 532. Emperor Justinian I had the church restored in 548. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was completed in 537.
Heavily damaged by an earthquake in the 8th century, it dates in its present form largely from the repairs made at that time. The Emperor Constantine V ordered the restorations and had its interior decorated with mosaics and frescoes. Hagia Irene is the only example of a Byzantine church in the city which retains its original atrium. A great cross in the half-dome above the main narthex, where the image of the Theotokos was usually placed in Byzantine tradition, is a unique vestige of the Iconoclastic art. The church was enlarged during the 11th and 12th centuries.
The church measures 100m x 32 m. It has the typical form of a Roman basilica, consisting of a nave and two aisles, divided by columns and pillars. It comprises a main space, a narthex, galleries and an atrium. The dome is 15m wide and 35m high and has twenty windows.

After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed II, the church was enclosed inside the Sultan's Walls. The Janissaries (Ottoman soldiers) used the church as an armoury. It was also used as a warehouse for war booty. During the reign of Sultan Ahmet III (1703-1730) it was converted into a weapon museum.

It was repaired by Field Marshall Ahmed Fethi Pasa in 1846 and became the first Turkish museum. It was used as the Military Museum from 1908 until1978 when it was turned over to the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

Today, the museum serves mainly as a concert hall for classical music performances, due to its extraordinary acoustic characteristics and impressive atmosphere. Most of the concerts of the Istanbul International Music Festival have been held here every summer since 1980.

In 2000, the Turkish haute couture designer Faruk Sarac produced a special show here. A collection of 700 designed pieces inspired by the Ottoman sultans, including the robes of 36 sultans ranging from Osman Gazi, the founder of the Ottoman Empire to Sultan Vahdettin, the last sultan, were on display. The show was accompanied by music and the story of the sultans' lives and demonstrations of Ottoman-era dancing.

 

Neve Shalom Synagogues

Neve Shalom Synagogue, is a synagogue located in the Galata district of Istanbul.

When the Jewish population in the old Pera and Galata districts (today encompassed by Beyoglu district) increased in the late 1930s, a Jewish primary school in the area was torn down in 1949 in order to build a new synagogue and the construction was completed in 1951. The architects were Elyo Ventura and Bernar Motola, young Turkish Jews. The inauguration with the presence of the Chief Rabbi of Turkey of the time, Hakham Bashi Rafael Saban, was on Sunday, March 25, 1951 (17 Veadar 5711, Hebrew calendar).

Neve Shalom is the central and largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul, open to service especially on Shabbats, high holidays, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals and weddings.

 

St. Anthony Church

The Church is the largest cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Istanbul. Is is located on Istiklal Avenue in the Beyoglu district.

The original St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral was built in 1725 by the local Italian community of Istanbul, but was later demolished and replaced with the current building which was constructed on the same location. The current St. Anthony of Padua, along with its adjacent buildings (known as the St. Antoine Apartmanlari) on Istiklal Avenue, was built between 1906 and 1912 in the Venetian Neo-Gothic style, and was likewise edificed by the local Italian community of the city, mostly of Genoese and Venetian descent, who amounted to 40,000 people at the turn of the 20th century. The building was designed by the Istanbulite Levantino Italian architect Giulio Mongeri, who also designed many other important buildings in Istanbul and Ankara; such as the Macka Palas (which houses Armani Café and Gucci) in Nisantasi and the Neo-Byzantine style Karakoy Palas bank building in Karakoy (Galata), Istanbul; as well as the first headquarters of Turkiye Is Bankasi in Ankara.

The cathedral is run by Italian priests. Saturday mass is in Italian and begins at 19:00, Sunday mass is in English and begins at 10:00, and Tuesday mass is in Turkish and begins at 11:00. Pope John XXIII preached in this church for 10 years, when he was the Vatican's ambassador to Turkey before being elected as pope. He is known in Turkey with the nickname "The Turkish Pope" because of his fluent Turkish and his often expressed love for Turkey and the city of Istanbul.

 
 
 
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