Year 1886. One by one the stones of Agios Voukolos Church are being laid. A history enlivened by devoted richness of Eastern Orthodox Armenian Community is re-written.
Article: Cihat Kemal Pehlivanoğlu / Architect
Photography: Çiğdem Askeri Coşkun
Year 2000… We are at an expedition under the lead of Prof. Dr. Metin Sözen inside the church, in deserted attachments around and the library. Evening hours. Dome is worn through and takes in all weather outside. We feel the rain drops, fume surrounds us, and darkness greets the eye.
You can tell that the church stands up to time. It is surrounded by the crowd yet no one asks “What are you hiding beneath your shell?”
First stones of Agios Voukolos Church are tiled one by one. A history enlivened by devoted richness of Eastern Orthodox Armenian Community is re-written. In the second half of the 19th century everyone on Anafartalar Street is talking about the church being built.
Walls are rising. First the main structure, then others and finally exterior walls. The building is the art of time in which the Greeks were densely populated. The building used as a church until 1922 was abandoned for years after the Greek community had left İzmir. The church converted to Asar-ı Atika (Relic) Museum on request of Atatürk in February 1924 was not affected by the great fire but started to bow to the affect of time.
Its function as a museum varied in time. The building serving as the opera hall for the Ministry of Culture was no longer used after an unfortunate fire.
Sculptor Cahit Koççoban serving in the museum cited the glassed partition attachment in the entrance under the narthex as his primary station. As far as Koççoban recalls, with the proclamation of the republic museum studies gained importance and reliefs, sculptures, friezes and many historical artifacts were relieved and protected in the museum garden. In 1951 the museum is removed to the fairground. The building owned by the Treasury is registered as cultural assets subject to preservation by the circular 152 dated January 17, 1975. In 2003, the building is allocated to İzmir Metropolitan Municipality. Restoration Project prepared by the Department of Architectural Restoration of Faculty of Architecture in İzmir Institute of Technology between 2004 and 2007 was tender for implementation following the approval of İzmir Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation Regional Board. On December 17, 2008 restoration activities commenced after site delivery. Basmane – Ayavukla Church Restoration Project and Implementation Consultancy were carried out by İzmir Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation Regional Board, İzmir Metropolitan Municipality and Prof. Dr. Başak İpekoğlu.
Narthex of the church (the section in churches separated from the nave with pillars or walls before entering the nave) is the semi-open entrance space circled by range of columns. Women’s section is situated above the narthex on the traverse capturing the inner space. The inner space transept is covered by the dome in the middle, semi-cross vault on the sides, entrance hall section and abscissa (the part behind church choirs, corresponding to altars in mosques covered in the shape of semi-circle or semi-polygons) cross cavetto vault in front and hemidome over abscissa.
The layout of the church can be described as single naved (the wide section designed for worshipping), with single abscissa and transept (the long nave in churches close to the choir and perpendicular to the nave, forming a cross figure). The walls were built with quarry stones and brickwork technique, with brick linings between stories on façades and under eaves.
The prayer place encircled by two rows of windows is graced with columns in Corinthian order.
Brick relieving vaults, hammer dressed face stones, window and door frames compose architectural elements of façades.
Restoration and landscaping activities of the church and four annexes were finalized at the end of 2010.
Kilise, sosyal aktivite merkezi ve çok amaçlı kültür salonu olarak restore edilmiş ve bahçenin batı kısmında yer alan müştemilat binası Basın Müzesi olarak kullanılmak üzere İzmir Gazeteciler Cemiyeti’nin kullanımına sunulmuştur. Diğer ek yapılar ise muhtarlık ve çocuk kütüphanesi olarak düşünülmüştür.
The church is renovated as a social activities center and multi purpose culture hall. The outhouse building located at the west side of the garden is provided to İzmir Association of Journalists to be used as the Press Museum. Other outhouses are considered for the office of mukhtar and children’s library.
Outcome of intensive labor
Restoration of great historical structures requires devoted endeavor and tremendous effort. The firm undertaking the implementation has pursued the restoration with their expert staff with the very delicacy of the craftsman who placed the first stone of the church. Especially the outward dilatations exceeding 25 centimeters on the main wall on the upper part of the narthex were tightened with its special technique hence reinstating the main wall to its actual vertical distance.
For those who can appreciate extent of the effort is beyond doubt. However, many invisible efforts are hidden within the restoration of the church. Restoration of historical structures with today’s technology and advanced implementation techniques is an opportunity for us to rediscover our past.
In an environment free of discrimination, a church built with endeavor is now retrieved. The church now intended to serve as a social activities center may pave the way for regaining the spirit of former era, to be opened to worship in given periods in order to cherish the memory of those who presented the first stone. Agios Voukolos Church in Basmane Kapılar area, bearing the Archeological Museum embossment on its door will reach the days to come as it has reached today in virtue of hands carrying the light.
Interior icons concealing the history of unforgettable days within walls, renovated within the scope of restoration are now looking at us again from beyond. As if looking from 22 years beyond…