New life for Iron Church
The Orthodox temple, which turns 120 years old in 2018, has been restored following six years of repairs
13 January, 2018
The church's interior was nicely renovated as well.
The church is located on the Golden Horn's shore.
A detail of the church's iconostasis.
The numerous small domes on the facade are shining once again.
After six years of repairs, the end of 2017 saw the conclusion of the complete restoration of the Bulgarian Orthodox church St. Stephen in Istanbul, also known as the Iron Church. Almost 40 construction workers and restorers from Turkey did their best to return the church to its former glory under the leadership of architect Fikriye Bulunmaz. St. Stephen, the only Orthodox church in the world built entirely of assembled cast-iron plates, turns 120 years old in 2018.
The official unveiling ceremony of the restored building was held on 7 January and was attended by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Patriarch of Bulgaria Neophyte and many officials. The repairs of the church were funded by Turkey, in larger part, and Bulgaria, to a lesser extent. The restoration of the Iron Church is part of a campaign of the local authorities to return to their former glory not only old Turkish mosques but also worship places of other religions. For example, the Aya Yorgi Church in the Edirnekapi area was unveiled at the end of November following renovations.
St. Stephen is among the main historical monuments of the Bulgarian Orthodox community in Istanbul. It was built on a piece of land donated in the mid-19th century by Ottoman statesman Stefan Bogoridi, a descendant of a prominent Bulgarian family who held high-ranked positions in the administration of the Ottoman Empire. The actual construction of the church began decades later, after the country's liberation from Ottoman rule.
The church was designed by Armenian architect Hovsep Aznavur, while the almost 500 tonnes of cast-iron panels were made in Austria-Hungary by the Rudolf Philipp Waagner Company of Vienna, which took part in the reconstruction of the Royal Palace in Sofia and produced the metal statues decorating Lions' Bridge in the Bulgarian capital. The church has a steel framework and walls of cast-iron, with the elements assembled using almost four million nuts, bolts and rivets. The altar and the original six bells were donated by Russia.
In architectural style, St. Stephen, which was consecrated on 8 September 1898, is a radical departure from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. It is a three-nave pseudo-basilica shaped as a Latin cross with elaborately decorated facade. Its apse points to the Golden Horn and its 40-metre (131-feet) belfry has six bells made in the Russian town of Yaroslavl, two of which have been preserved to this day. The iconostasis was also painted by Russian masters. The prominent Bulgarian clerics Exarch Yossif I and Ilarion Makariopolski were buried in the courtyard of St. Stephen Church.