St. Johnís the Evangelist Church in Izmir
Ft Ron Rogers, former Anglican chaplain to St Johnís the Evangelist church, Alsancak, Izmir

As one of the seven original Christian churches of the Apocalypse (the book of Revelation of St John), Izmirís (Smyrna) Christian heritage is well founded. While Izmir perhaps has the least to show as far as ancient ruins are concerned, it is the one place of all seven where the Christian Church continued and continues to survive.

The first English ambassador was appointed to Turkey in 1583 and one of the results was the formation of the Joint Stock Turkey company which in 1592 combined with the Venice company to become the Levant company. The Levant company saw it as part of their responsibility to provide for the spiritual welfare of their workers, and the Church of England clergy have served this community since 1625, that is since the time when the Levant company began trading between Britain and Turkey. The Levant company provided the first chapel and appointed and paid the chaplain. From 1820 to 1890 this responsibility was taken by the British government, and the chapel was part of the consular buildings close to Pasaport (1km towards the city centre). In 1890 the consular buildings, including the chapel were demolished. For about ten years Anglicans had no chapel of their own, they worshipped in the British seamanís hospital and in the Dutch reformed chapel. Although they did not appreciate it at the time, in the long run it was a blessing to the Anglican community that the church was not built in the new consulate compound for those buildings were destroyed in the fire of 1922.

The churches of St Mary Magdalene Ė Bornova (Bournabat) Ė 1857 and All Saints at Buca (Boudjah) Ė 1866 continued to thrive, supported by European communities resident in those villages, as they then were.

However the residents of Izmir petitioned the Treasury for a grant and with funds raised locally, built a new church. After much discussion and with some disagreements, an Imperial firman was obtained in 1896, the present site was bought, later the church completed in 1899 and consecrated by the Bishop (Stanford) of Gibraltar in 1902 (see stone above the entrance). Mr S. Watkins, an engineer with the Ottoman railway company acted as honorary architect. The church is designed as a fairly typical small English country church, built of local Turkish stone and marble.

When you enter St Johnís from the porch ahead is the font, traditionally placed near the main entrance to the church to symbolise the fact that it is by baptism we become members of the Church of Christ. Ft Ron has not been able to find out anything about the history of the font, however it is in the interesting shape of a shell, an ancient Christian symbol of pilgrimage.

In 1904 a new bishop, 34 year old William Edward Collins, was appointed to the Diocese. On a visit for a confirmation in 1911, Bishop Collins died on board SS Saghelien in the bay of Izmir, and is buried in the crypt of St Johnís. You can see his gravestone behind the font. On the wall above there is a picture of Bishop Collins, of the chalice containing the Episcopal ring, and a copy of the statement from him setting out the jurisdictions of the three Anglican chaplains here at the time.

In 1913 the Bishop Collins memorial hall was built next to the church. There is the possibility that this is the only Bishop of Gibraltar buried in one of the chaplaincy churches.

Above the grave on the West wall are a number of memorials, the older ones were brought here from All Saints Buca when it was closed and handed to the council. The window was made by the Bavarian Art company in Munich. Turning eastward and walking down the nave you see on your left a memorial to those of the local British community killed in the First World War. The memorial was originally in the British consulate (not the building next to the church), but when it was closed, the memorial was placed here. Next to it is another memorial, a stained glass window on the north side of the nave, in memory of Cecil Percy Rice, of the rifle brigade, who was killed in the same war. The East window can be seen on entering the church with a traditional depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus, with his mother Mary on his right and St John on his left. At the base of the window there is a scene depicting St Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, bound in chains on his way to execution in Rome, being greeted by St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who was himself martyred here in the stadium at the foot of Mount Pagus. The window was designed and produced by C.E. Kemp, a well-known stained glass designer of the time. His work is very distinctive and easily recognised, and in case of doubt he included a wheat-sheaf motif in his designs.

St Johnís church has the distinction of having two ĎEastí windows. The second is actually at the west end, above the font. This was brought here from All Saintís in Buca, when that church was closed in 1964. The window had been made in 1893, by the Bavarian Art Establishment for stained glass in Munich, Germany. The south (right hand) window in the chancel showing Jesus as the good shepherd also comes from Buca. Originally this space was occupied by a window showing St Polycarp, damaged in a riot, now on display as a fragment in the porch. The 1964 riot also destroyed much of the fixtures including the organ and strike marks can still be seen on the wooden panel in the porch, listing past chaplains. The opposite window in the chancel was the gift of the chaplain at the time (Alfred H. Ellis) during building of the church and it cost £25 at the time.

The sanctuary lamp, originally in a Greek church was given in memory of a parishioner, Patricia Ringenbach and was dedicated on September 1994. The sanctuary lamp burns to tell people that bread from the Eucharist is reserved in the Tabernacle, the cupboard itself given in memory of a former chaplain, Rev Tupholme (1959-73). Amongst the other items within the church inventory are a pair of crosses laid on the altar table whose style suggests origins of Russia and Ethiopia respectively, but the stories behind them are lost. Also a mystery is the seeming menorah (the Jewish fanning candle stick) displayed behind the altar, about 1 m. across though its origin is not necessarily Jewish.

The house next door, currently serving as the local British consulate, was built as the vicarage in 1910. It was only used as such for the first 12 years of its existence. After 1922 a single chaplain looked after all 3 churches and lived in the vicarage next to the St Maryís church in Bornova.

This passage is based on the article written by Ft Ron in celebration of St Johnís centenary (1998) of the laying of the foundation stone.

 Note: The church in Izmir has its own Internet site: To view a photo of the building, click here.



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