February 4, 2010

A Familiar Image of Orthodoxy in Turkey

The first photo below shows the Church of St. Nicholas in Halicarnassus (modern day Bodrum) which was destroyed by dynamite in 1969. The second photo depicts the Center of Adult Education, which was built in the place of the church.

It was reported recently that the Church of St. Nicholas would be turned into a museum. But the question was asked: If the church is going to be restored, why make it into a museum and not an active church?

90% of the residents are in favor of the church being restored. 5000 residents of Bodrum are Muslim and live there year round. One million tourists visit in the summer. Yet, there is no church in the area for all these tourists.

The church was three centuries old. When the Orthodox residents were removed during the population exchange of 1923, the church became a storage place. Before being destroyed in the 1960's, Bodrum started to become a popular tourist destination. There was a debate within the government to keep the church to give tourists a sense of its past. Eventually it was decided that the church was of no significant historical value and thus destroyed. However when the dynamite exploded the central part of the church remained and the awful looking building one sees in the photographs was built around it.

The mayor of Bodrum, Mehmet Kocadon, wants to now destroy this building and restore St. Nicholas and place the Center for Adult Education in another location. Kocadon faces one major issue however: the justification to rebuild this church and gain the license to do so. It is for this reason that he has requested that it become a museum and not an operating church.


See also this piece about another church in Bodrum to be restored (and most likely turned into a museum).