Bulgarian St. Stephen Church
On January 7, 2018, the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church, also known as the Bulgarian Iron Church, reopened after an extensive 6-year restoration. with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte conducting the opening, a celebration ceremony took place in the neighborhood of Balat on the shore of the Golden Horn. Furthermore, Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were present to acknowledge the joint efforts of Bulgaria and Turkey in undertaking this reconstruction project.
A 500-ton building process
As the only church in the world that is mostly made of iron, this monument is an architectural wonder, with a fascinating history to pair.
Originally built in 1898, the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church is an outstanding symbol of the Bulgarian people with a historical presence in Istanbul. In the late 19th century, Prince Stefan Bogoridi, an Ottoman statesman of Bulgarian origin, donated the land he owned to the Church, and started the efforts for its building. The original construction plans were made by the Armenian architect Hovsep Aznavur. The cast iron parts of the church, weighing about 500 tons in all, were produced by the Austrian company Rudolph Ph. Waagner, and were transported by ship--from Vienna, through the Danube, Black Sea, and Bosphorus--to Istanbul. Two of the surviving tower bells were brought from Russia’s city of Yaroslavl.
Visit the church and its surroundings
In the present day, the restored plans of the Bulgarian Iron Church were designed by architect Fikri Bulunmaz. Through the use of modern technology, the materials used for the walls and base of the church are similar to those of the original. From an aerial view, the three domes and a cross-shaped basilica are strikingly apparent; upon walking inside the church, visitors can marvel at the richly ornamented church grounds.
In addition to the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church, there are a number of other visit-worthy monuments in the Fener and Balat neighborhood. St. George's Cathedral, which has the Ecumenical Patriarchate since the 15th century, and Phanar Greek Orthodox College, an school known as "The Red Castle" for its brick-laid exterior and impressive architecture, are two sites you should not miss.
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