his period of ministering in the house of Mary at Ephesus (Selçuk),
has been responsible for this church - St. Anthony of Padua. Together with the 2-3 other Capuchin
order monks now remaining in Izmir, helps organise as a visiting priest
the services at the Catholic church on street number 81 in Buca. The
‘St. John the Baptist’ church no longer has a resident priest. With
the benefit of being Maltese background, can speak many languages (Maltase,
Arabic, Italian, French, German, English) and pays importance to historical
heritage. The St. Anthony church is 99 years old (in 2001), the only church in Bayraklı, [archive views] but the
history of the Capuchins in Izmir goes back further.
From the archives now kept in a cupboard in this church, the Capuchin
seminary (monk school) in Boudjah
that neighboured the British church, kept detailed records that include
a group photograph included 58 persons together with a colour postcard
that showed the state of the building at the time. Documents show the
construction started in 1881, established in 1883 and maintained its
activities at least until 1910. The postcard shows that the building
did not change shape; however the plot that is now a car park supported
large cypress trees, between which monks are seen gingerly tending the
garden. Father Joe does not know when and under what circumstances this
building was lost to the community, however they still own the St. Etienne
seminary at Yeşilköy, Istanbul. In the early years of the
republic, following Ataturk’s instruction, 15 days were provided for
all to convert the Ottoman title deeds, but following the recommendation
of France most Catholics including churches ignored the demand. There
was a perception amongst some western powers that the republic would
be short lived and the returning Sultan would not recognise the new
deeds. Unlike the Anglicans and many other Christian sects, the Catholics
were never recognised as a ‘nation’ (millet) by the Ottoman government
and even today are merely tolerated. The combination of these two factors
resulted in the Capuchins losing much real estate in many neighbourhoods
of Izmir, and Ft. Joe mentioned some examples.
Historical note: Following pressure
exerted on the court by Britain, in 1850 the Protestant community was
accepted as a ‘nation’ [millet] and announced through the firman of
Sultan Abdulmecit (1g-p.23).
The property of the St. Antoine church belongs entirely to themselves.
The detailed archives also highlight the local Catholics according to
their nationality, with changes in relative proportions with time (the
English are included as a minority). In a later visit I partially listed
the books formerly belonging to the ‘Orient’ seminary. No doubt the
majority of the students were non-local and the school was multinational.
However this community too were a part of the continuous political rivalry
of European nations and with examples Ft.Joe explained how some head
priests were removed from office due to their ethnicity.
In the St. Antoine church hang two large oil paintings, dated 1884 but
unsigned and since older than the church, Ft. Joe believes they might
have been brought from the Boudjah monastery. Even though these are
not masterpieces and include technical mistakes, following the fashion
of the time, the face visible in the background is probably a self-rendition
of the local possibly a monk artist.
Through the efforts of a student priest, an Internet site has been created
(now offline) and with this it is possible to examine the history of
this church (founded 1902), Boudjah
‘Institute of the Orient’ (founded 1883, closed ~1920) and the other
Capuchin churches. Furthermore this site shows the distribution of the
Bayrakli Catholic community according to nationality and between 1902-1982,
according to year. In the 1930s after the Turks and Italians was also
an English community, with 31 persons in 1930 making this locality a
mini Buca. However it should be born in mind that this ‘English’ group
may not all be Catholic nor have British origin.
Note: 1- As part of the centenary
of the establishment of the Bayraklı church, Ft Joe is currently
researching in Italy the life of the monk who founded the church, Ft
Grambattista da san Lorenza, and an article will result.
2- Examining the seriously yellowing documents, with a helper, of the
Boudjah monastery, kept by the Venturini friars in Rome, Ft Buttigieg
was surprised to discover that there was no reference to the Anglican
Church just next door, showing how the Protestant and Catholic clergy
lived in their own ‘universes’. He was depressed to discover that the
closing of the monastery was linked to ‘stinked of’ the politics of
the time. Among the more important discoveries is a 10 page report on
the fire of Izmir of 1922 and photo albums of the friars and important
sites such as the martyr St Polycarp’s
tomb on Mt Pagus.
3- A 2 book series published by a Bayrakli resident and fan (Bir zamanlar
Bayraklı [Once upon a time in Bayraklı] 1997 & Uygarlığın
anıtı Bayraklı [Monument to civilisation] 2000 – Adil
Akçamlı), provide nostalgic 20th century pictorial reading.
Book 2 page 251 incidentally informs us of the location of the old Catholic
cemetery (across the archaeological site Tepekule, next to the Talat
Paşa primary school. It existed for certainty in 1906 and I estimate
it was destroyed in the 1930s.
interview date 2001