Restoration of Historic Patriarch Orphanage Stalled
10/19/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – A 123-year old historic Greek orphanage faces potential ruin despite claims for preservation and restoration work to begin. The historic site, Europe’s largest and world’s second-largest timber building, is owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate but could cost some $47 million to repair.
The building was gifted to the Patriarchate in 1903 to be used as an orphanage. The building was later confiscated by the Turkish government in 1964 as part of the forced expulsion of Turkish citizens of Greek Orthodox identity. In 2010, the ECHR ruled that the Patriarchate owned the building, leaving the Christian community with its rightful possession but now in financial hardship over the neglected building.
“The orphanage is our common value and its fate is our responsibility,” the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I commented at a fundraising event for the building’s restoration. “That building had shown compassion to orphan children, but we have failed to return the compassion it deserves. From now on, we should see how we can show compassion to it,” said Mayor of Princess’ Islands Erdem Gul.
In May 2021, a construction company run by the Istanbul municipality completed a digital survey and visual reproduction of the structure’s current condition. The survey will assist in the preservation and restoration work. However, when that will begin is unclear. Some argue that the financial burden of restoration should fall to Turkey as they neglected the building after seizing it from the church. Others worry that the undertaking is far too massive of a restoration project to be handled by Istanbul’s sub company.
The World’s Monuments Fund named the orphanage as one of the most endangered heritage sites in the world.
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