Monday, November 2, 2015

Roman Catholic Church St Mary Draperis, Istanbul

The church of St Mary Draperis is one of the most ancient Roman Catholic parishes of Istanbul. In 1453, a few months before the Fall of Constantinople, Observant Franciscan Friars complete the construction of the church of St Anthony of the Cypresses in Sirkeci, at that time centre of the Venetian Merchants in the city, on the southern bank of the Golden Horn. However, soon after the Fall of Byzantium they were forced to abandon it. In 1584 they eventually moved to Galata, in the neighbourhood of Mumhane, where a Levantine woman, Clara Maria Draperis, endowed them a house with a tiny chapel. The alter of the chapel was adorned with a wooden icon portraying the Virgin Mary. The chapel burned completely in 1660, and the icon was rescued by a member of the Draperis family.

 In case of total destruction due to fire, Ottoman law imposed the restitution of the land of the State. Because of that, in order to rebuild the church, the friars should have first asked for a Sultna’s Firman, to allow the reconstruction; however, in absence of that the newly rebuilt church was demolished in 1663 by the Ottoman government. The friars then abandoned the neighbourhood and settled uphill in Pera, in a place named Dortyol. They built there in 1678 a new church, which burned in 1697, which was destroyed again by the strong earthquake of 1727. Erected once again, the edifice burned for the third time in 1767 and was finally rebuilt for the fifth time in 1769. After each catastrophe the icon of the Virgin could always be rescued, which exists to this day, in the main altar. During the 19th century St Mary became one of the most prestigious Roman Catholic churches in Istanbul. The church is still officiated by reformed Franciscan friars. 

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