December 23rd we decided to take a ferry from central Istanbul up the Golden Horn to Balat, the area that housed the majority of the city’s Jewish population. As we left the ferry at the municipality of Fatih, we immediately found ourselves by the church dedicated to St. Stephen. It is one of two church buildings serving the Bulgarian minority in the city.
|Old church buildi|
A separate Bulgarian Church was inaugurated in 1849. It was located in a house (right) on the same site as the present church donated by Prince Stefan Bogoridi a high ranking Ottoman statesman of Bulgarian origin.
The wooden church was replaced by the present building in 1898. The whole building was built from pre fabricated iron elements transported from Vienna and assembled in 1898. This mode of construction was chosen as the ground could not hold a heavy concrete construction.
When we entered the Church of St Stephen we found the interior both dark and mysterious. The interior was very ornate and colourful compared to the slightly decaying exterior and it had, as all orthodox churches, a beautiful gilded iconostasis depicting saints important to the Bulgarian congregation.
A trip to Balat is a memorable and highly recommendable experience. Use the ferry up the Golden Horn to get there.
The ferry is a welcome alternative to a taxi driving recklessly through the heavy traffic. It drives slowly and quietly upstream and there are always fellow tourists to talk to.
See location of Bulgarian St Stephen Church on this map of Istanbul
Vis Istanbul A-Z 2009 Updated January 6th 2010 i et større kart
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