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