Istanbul’s Hagia Elia Church hosts first mass in 41 years
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
A mass in Istanbul’s Karaköy neighborhood was held on the the Hagia Elia Church’s name day. The ceremony is led by spiritual leaders from the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. DAILY NEWS photo / Deniz Çiyan
The Hagia Elia Church, which belongs to Turkey’s White Russians, was reopened to mass after 41 years on August 2, with a ceremony led by spiritual leaders from the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
A mass in Istanbul’s Karaköy neighborhood was held on the church’s name day for the first time since 1972. However, Sunday masses will not be held regularly due to the lack of a permanent priest. The church, which belongs to the Russian émigrés who had fled from the Bolshevik regime in 1921, is situated on the roof of a structure where monks used to reside, a style of architecture rarely seen in Anatolia.
Kazmir Pamir, the deputy head of the White Russians’ PAE Fukaraperver Association, told the Hürriyet Daily News that even though it was an important step to reopen the church to mass, it was not enough.
“We are grateful to the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Bartholomew for the mass but a cleric needs to be appointed for us to hold our Sunday masses regularly,” Pamir said. Pamir said the demolition of the church was still at issue and that an action to avoid this should be taken. “Something has to be done urgently,” said Pamir. The Hagia Elia Church faces the risk of being demolished as part of the privatization of the Istanbul Salıpazarı Port, also known as the Galataport project, located in Karaköy. The church will be demolished if the demolition resolution, which is being suspended currently, is to be implemented.
Stressing that the church was in a dilapidated state, Pamir said it needed restoration. “The association’s budget is not enough for the restoration of the church, we need a sponsor,” said Pamir, adding that they would have to put away the antique icons that they took out from the chests for the mass. “We need even the smallest support. This church will stand with your help.”
Though most of the White Russians that came to Turkey in the 1920s migrated to other countries in the course of time, a remarkable amount of the community stayed in Istanbul.
While around 100,000 Russians reside in Turkey, including the Russians that came to the country lately, according to the PAE Fukaraperver Association, they own three churches and a monk’s house, which is currently used as a commercial building in Istanbul. The properties belong to the Russian Monastery at the Mt. Athos Monastery Complex in Greece and the Fener Greek Patriarchate is in charge of the churches.
Church presented to UNESCO’s attention
Natali Pakker, lecturer at the Architecture Faculty of the Versailles University, was among the people to attend the mass. Pakker told the Daily News that the church, which dated back to the 19th century, was an extremely significant structure and that she had presented a report about the church to UNESCO. “The church, which was closed, has suffered severe damage with the effect of the rain. This church needs to be renovated and researched by experts,” she said.