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A Thousand Natural Shocks An anthology that includes two of my stories. Available now at Amazon. on 2013-11-11
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June 2019
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Church of St Panteleimon

Church of St Panteleimon

Church of the Holy Trinity

Church of the Holy Trinity

Within 100 metres of each other, on top of the large warehouses in the Karaköy area, perch the domes of four Russian chapels – dedicated respectively to St Panteleimon (41.024749,28.978425), the prophet Elias (41.024447,28.97806), St Andrew (41.024613,28.978785), and the Holy Trinity (41.024787,28.979037). These were built between 1870 and 1880 to cater for Russian pilgrims breaking their sea journeys on the way to Mount Athos, or sometimes Jerusalem. There were dormitory rooms for the pilgrims in the buildings beneath the churches. The Holy Trinity chapel is now abandoned, although the dome is in surprisingly good repair. St Panteleimon is still staffed but is damp and peeling. Aya İliyas (The Chapel of the Prophet Elias/Elijah) has extensive frescoes painted in about 1900 by artists from Mt Athos. These are now looking fairly awful because of damp and lack of money for maintenance. There was a service held here in 2013. St Andrew had a restoration in preparation for a service of major importance held in 2011.

Church of the Prophet Elias from the balcony of the Church of St Andrew. Aziz Nikola in the foreground.

Church of the Prophet Elias from the balcony of the Church of St Andrew. Aziz Nikola in the foreground.

There are very good reasons for these recent one-off celebrations of mass. There is only one priest associated with the four Karaköy Russian churches. He is very old but has enormous energy. I met him in May 2014 and was impressed with the fighting spirit that he shows on behalf of his church (St Panteleimon). The community has called on the Russian Orthodox patriarchate to supply more priests. However these churches, despite being Orthodox and serving a Russian community, are not really Russian Orthodox. During the heyday of the churches, inevitably coinciding with the influx of Christians from the new Soviet Union just after the 1917 revolution, the churches’ links with the struggling Russian Orthodox Church dwindled. The churches came under the jurisdiction of the Mt Athos monasteries that provided their raison d’etre. These monasteries are, in turn, administered by the Greek Patriarchate in Constantinople.

Bells of St Andrew with mural of Monastery on Mt Athos.

Bells of St Andrew with mural of Monastery on Mt Athos.

The value of real estate in Karaköy is rising fast. The hans are not profitable. Until recently, they have been classified as commercial buildings. The contract for the development of Galataport, the reconstruction of the waterside area in Karaköy, is worth an enormous amount of money. There is no bar to demolition by developers of a building zoned as commercial. This explains the importance of services held in the churches of St Andrew and the Prophet Elijah in the last few years. If the churches can be shown to be active places of worship, there is a possibility, a very small possibility, of the buildings being saved. The Greek Patriarchate provided personnel to conduct the services. At the moment, the churches of St Andrew and the Prophet Elijah are in the best condition that they have been for over forty years. They are still permanently locked and it seems most unlikely that they will survive development that carries a financial incentive approaching a billion US dollars.

Inconspicuous dome of Church of St Panteleimon

Inconspicuous dome of Church of St Panteleimon

For now, St Panteleimon is the only church open for regular Sunday worship. Catch it now. In fact, turn up with vast numbers of your friends every Sunday for the foreseeable future. That may be the only way to give the survival of this fragile piece of Russo-Turco-Greek history any chance.

St Panteleimon after a Sunday service.

St Panteleimon after a Sunday service.

Church of St Andrew. View from St Panteleimon.

Church of St Andrew. View from St Panteleimon.

Chapel of the Prophet Elias. From St Panteleimon.

Chapel of the Prophet Elias. From St Panteleimon.

St Andrew's Church

St Andrew's Church

A new building about to hide the Russian churches from the Bosphorus

A new building about to hide the Russian churches from the Bosphorus

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Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Russian Churches”

  1. Enormousfish | Index | Adam Kaya Heskith | Author and Writer | Enormousfish Says:
    June 30th, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    […] Andrew, Russian Church of St […]

  2. Enormousfish | Pera/Galata | Adam Kaya Heskith | Author and Writer | Enormousfish Says:
    October 12th, 2014 at 6:32 am

    […] […]

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