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Izmir, the ancient city of Smyrna – Part III

on 20/04/2015

Izmir cathedrale

       Izmir played a substantial part in Christian history. Ancient Smyrna was inhabited by Greeks and Levantines and the city has a number of interesting churches that are worth seeing.

The most extraordinary is undoubtedly the one dedicated to St. Polycarp. It was built in 1620 and is the oldest church in Izmir. It is linked to the French Mission and was named after a disciple of John the Apostle: Polycarp, who later became a bishop and a representative of the churches of Asia Minor. In 155 he was martyred by the Romans and was subsequently recognised as the patron saint of Smyrna. St. Polycarp Church is a real book of biblical history, its walls and ceiling are adorned with magnificent frescos. It is also the seat of the Bishopric of Izmir.

Our Lady of the Rosary, located in the old Greek district of Alsancak, belongs to the Dominicans. They have been present in Smyrna since 1718, where they arrived from Azerbaijan. They opened their first hospice in order to help the Armenian Catholics. As for the church, it was built in 1904 to replace a small chapel from 1857.

St. John’s Cathedral is one of the most important Catholic constructions in Turkey and it is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Izmir. It is a neoclassical building. The construction works lasted from 1862 to 1874 and were funded by Sultan Abdulaziz who donated 11,000 gold Turkish Lira towards the project.

During a period of 50 years American NATO military personnel stationed in Izmir were granted permission to use the cathedral as a place of worship. It was then thoroughly restored and reopened its doors in September 2013.

Opposite the cathedral, in the street that faces the entrance, you will find a small Greek Orthodox church called Agia Fotini. However the church still bares the inscription “Felemenk protestan kilisesi” (Felemenk Protestant Church) since it once was a Dutch chapel.

Since October 12 2014 it is shared by both Greeks and Protestants.


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