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Historic Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul Set to Reopen in 2024

Greek Orthodox Church Istanbul
The restored church is expected to accommodate approximately six hundred worshipers. Credit: Kingbjelica , CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikipedia

The 130-year-old Panagia Evangelistria Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul is being restored and is set to reopen in 2024, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reports.

Constructed in 1893 by the Greek Community of Beyoğlu, the place of worship has suffered damage over the years, primarily to its roof, due to the passage of time, neglect, and natural factors.

In 2005, the church’s custom-made twin bells were stolen by individuals who were able to place a ladder inside so as to secretly enter. Despite extensive searches, the bells were never recovered, garnering significant media coverage at the time.

With contributions from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the support of a donor, the restoration process of the church commenced a few years later. The interior staircase, wooden seats, and structures were repaired for further use. Christian motifs and symbols on the ceiling and interior walls were meticulously painted and restored.

Hurriyet reports that assuming the restoration progresses without setbacks, a special ceremony is anticipated to take place in the spring of 2024 for the church’s reopening.

The restored church is expected to accommodate approximately six hundred worshipers, and the bell, replaced by donors a few years after the 2005 theft, will be reinstalled on the church tower following restoration.

Greek Orthodox Church Istanbul
The exterior of the church. Credit: Dosseman, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikipedia

Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox Church renovated

Providing information regarding the restoration process and the historical structure, Prodromos Kozmaoğlu, the vice president of the Beyoğlu Yenişehir Panagia Evangelistria Church Foundation, told Hurriyet that the church’s present state dates back to its construction in 1893.

“The previous structure had burned down in the 1850s, and with donations from the local Greek community, this building was reconstructed,” Kozmaoğlu explained. “Architecturally, domed church construction was prohibited before the Second Tanzimat Era [Ottoman reform era]. Our church was built during the era when domed architectural structures were permitted.”

The most recent restoration project began thanks to a donor associated with the patriarchate, Kozmaoğlu noted. “The work has been ongoing for approximately one and half years; we are talking about the renovation of a historic building. Due to negligence in the past, there were issues with the roof, concrete partitions and plaster partitions and the drawings were damaged, so the restoration of the drawings is being carried out.”

“We have three active members working in our foundation,” the vice president said. “The church can accommodate up to 600 people, but our congregation is very small. We have around 30 people in our region, either present or absent. Every Sunday, we have a service with visitors and foreigners. Our doors are open every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., open to all visitors.”

Regarding the theft of the bell in 2005, in speaking to the Turkish daily, Kozmaoğlu remarked, “We were not in leadership at that time. A team set up scaffolding outside the church without anyone noticing and took the bell.”

Related: Constantinople Greeks: The Cosmopolitans of Byzantium’s Capital

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