Customized tours Istanbul – Church Sveti Stefan
Christianity in Turkey has a long history. Anatolia had always been given the label of cradle of Christianity. It is the birthplace of many Christian Apostles and Saints and the birthplace of many interesting stories to be told on customized tours Istanbul.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church Sveti Stefan or the Bulgarian Iron Church (as it is also known), erected on the shore of the Golden Horn between Balat and Fener squares (near Eyup district), was completed in 1898 after one and a half year of work. It was introduced to the public on 8 September, the same year by Exarch Joseph.
With the conquest of the Balkans all the Bulgarian lands went under the authority of the Ottomans. Before that Bulgaria had always been in constant relations with Eastern Thrace. But after its lands became part of the Ottoman Empire a bigger Bulgarian colony was formed in the capital of the Empire, Istanbul (or as it was famous among Bulgarians – Tsarigrad). The colony consisted of mostly craftsmen and merchants. Istanbul was also the centre of journalism and enlightenment for the Bulgarians.
As mentioned above, Anatolia has always been said to be the cradle of Christianity. And that is the truth. Turkey is visited by thousands of religious pilgrims every year from all over the world. That is because Turkey is the place where Paganism ruled, then it was slowly replaced by a new religion, Christianity. Then, with the arrival of the Selcuks, Islam rooted in the lands of Turkey. This wasn’t an obstacle for the rest of the population of the Ottoman Empire, who professed different faith, to have their places for praying. Thus, in Istanbul there were other churches and synagogues as well – Aya Yorgi Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchy Church, the Armenian Church, the Jewish Synagogue. Customized tours Istanbul keep interesting stories of that time.
Bulgarian residents of Ottoman Empire at that time performed their religious rituals in the churches of Fener Orthodox Patriarchy. But probably, due to nationalistic movements, Bulgarians got the soft permission to build an iron church. At that time, the Bulgarian Stefan Bogoridi was a high ranking statesman in the Ottoman Empire.
Under Abdulmecid I, Stefan Bogoridi was an imperial counsellor and he was the only Christian who invited an Ottoman Sultan to his house as a guest after the fall of Constantinople. Stefan Bogoridi was the person who got that permission from the Sultan for the building of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. He was, also, the person who donated his house in Fener in 1849. For that reason, when the church was later erected at the place, it was given the name Sveti Stefan – in honour of Stefan Bogoridi. Initially, a small wooden church was built on the shore of Golden Horn, near Eyup district.
Bulgarian Orthodox Sveti Stefan Church
Later the wooden church suffered from fire. Then a new, larger building was constructed at the place of the old wooden one. The story of the new church is interesting. Bulgarian Orthodox Sveti Stefan Church is one of the world’s few surviving prefabricated cast iron churches. This church was the product of 19th century experimentation with prefabricated iron churches. Hovsep Aznavur – an Ottoman Armenian architect, prepared the construction plans for the building of the church. After that an international competition was conducted in order for a company to be found to produce the parts of the church.
Waagner won the competition
An Austrian company, R. Ph. Waagner won the competition and it took three years (1893-1896) the company to produce the parts (weighing 500 tons) and then transport them by ship to Istanbul through the Danube and the Black Sea. The parts were produced in Vienna. The main skeleton of the church was made of steel and covered by metal boards. All the pieces were attached together with nuts, bolts, rivets or welding. In terms of architecture, the church combines Neo-Gothic and Neo-Baroque influences. The Bulgarian Orthodox Sveti Stefan Church was completed in 1898 after one and a half year of work. It was introduced to the public on 8 September, the same year by Exarch Joseph. It is a richly ornamented three-domed cross-shaped basilica with its altar facing the Golden Horn and a 40-metre-high belfry, with six bells, above the narthex.
A dream come true was the Bulgarian Orthodox Sveti Stefan Church at that time for the Bulgarian population in Istanbul. For us, today, it is a place full of history, an attraction on customized tours Istanbul and still a place to pray for the Christian population of Istanbul and Turkey.