Turkish Christians
Türk Hristiyanlar
Total population
Est. 200,000–320,000[1][2]
Religions
Christianity (Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, Protestant)
Languages
Turkish, Greek, Ecclesiastical Latin, Koine Greek, Armenian, Syriac, Arabic, Russian, Georgian, English, German, Korean, Persian
Greek-Orthodox metropolises in Asia Minor, c. 1880

Christianity in Turkey has a long history dating back to the early origins of Christianity in Asia Minor during the 1st century AD. In modern times the percentage of Christians in Turkey has declined from 20 to 25 percent in 1914 to 3–5.5 percent in 1927, to 0.3–0.4%,[3][4] roughly translating to 200,000–320,000 devotees.[5] The percentage of Christians in Turkey fell mainly as a result of the late Ottoman genocides:[10] the Armenian genocide, Greek genocide, and Assyrian genocide,[14] the population exchange between Greece and Turkey,[8][15] the emigration of Christians that began in the late 19th century and gained pace in the first quarter of the 20th century,[8][16] and due to events such as the 1942 Varlık Vergisi tax levied on non-Muslim citizens in Turkey and the 1955 Istanbul pogrom against Greek and Armenian Christians.[8] Exact numbers are difficult to estimate as many former Muslim converts to Christianity often hide their Christian faith for fear of familial pressure, religious discrimination, and persecution.[17]

This was due to events which had a significant impact on the country's demographic structure, such as the First World War,[11] the genocides of Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians perpetrated by Turkish Muslims,[11] and the population exchange between Greece and Turkey,[18] and the emigration of Christians (such as Assyrians, Greeks, Armenians, etc.) to foreign countries (mostly in Europe and the Americas) that actually began in the late 19th century and gained pace in the first quarter of the 20th century, especially during World War I.[19][9]

Signed after the WW1, the Treaty of Lausanne explicitly guarantees the security and protection of both Greek and Armenian Orthodox Christian minorities. Their religious institutions are being recognized officially by the state.[20][21]

In 2011, there were more than 200,000-320,000 people of different Christian denominations,[22] representing roughly 0.3-0.4 percent of Turkey's population,[3][4] including an estimated 80,000 population of Oriental Orthodox Christians,[23] 47,000 Turkish Orthodox Christians,[24][25] 35,000 Roman Catholic Christians,[26] 18,000 Antiochian Greeks,[27] 5,000 Greek Orthodox Christians,[23] 8,000 Protestant Christians, 4,994 Jehovah's Witnesses,[28] and 512 Mormons.[29] There is also a small group of ethnic Orthodox-Christian Turks (mostly living in Istanbul and İzmir) who follow the Greek Orthodox, Turkish Orthodox, or Syriac Orthodox churches, and additionally Protestant Turks who still face difficulties regarding social acceptance, and also historic claims to churches or property in the country because they are former Muslim converts to Christianity from Turkish-Muslim backgrounds (rather than ethnic minorities).[30] Ethnically Turkish Protestants number around 7,000–8,000.[31][32] In 2009, there were 236 Christian churches open for worship in Turkey.[33] The Eastern Orthodox Church has been headquartered in Constantinople since the 4th century AD.[34][35][30]

In 2022, Christians were seen as being 0.2% of the population. This was mainly Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Armenian Catholics and Chaldean Christians, as well as smaller groups. It was noted that the number of Eastern Orthodox Christians had risen sharply, mainly due to refugees from Russia and Ukraine.[36]

In 2023, the country was scored 2 out of 4 for religious freedom; this was mainly due to disputes over land.[37] The Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox church, set to open on 8 October 2023, is the first church built since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey.[38]

Historical background

Early Christianity

Main article: Early history of Christianity

Further information: Christianity in the 1st century and Early centers of Christianity

Fresco of Christ Pantocrator on the ceiling of Karanlık Kilise (The Dark Church), Churches of Göreme. The Roman province of Cappadocia was renowned for its cave churches.
Paul the Apostle lived in Ephesus, Asia Minor. The early Christian community of Ephesus was one of the seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation.
Philip the Apostle lived and was buried in Hierapolis, Turkey
Constantine the Great, the founder of Constantinople, was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity.
Hagia Sophia was built in AD 537 during the reign of Justinian I, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire; it was the world's largest building and an engineering marvel of its time.

The Christianization of ancient Assyrians and Armenians most likely began around the 1st century AD.[39] The spread of Christianity beyond Jerusalem is discussed in the Book of Acts.[40]

The Cappadocian Fathers produced some of the earliest hagiographies in the region. In addition to writings about feminine virtue by Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzos, later texts about Nicholas of Sion and Theodore of Sykeon described miracles and rural life.[41]

The historical region of Syria became one of the main centers of miaphisite Christianity, embodied in the Oriental Orthodoxy, which had accepted only the first three ecumenical councils: Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381) and Ephesus (431). Miaphisite Christians were strongly opposed to Chalcedonian Creed that had been established by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In the 5th and 6th centuries, the Syriac Orthodox Church that originated in Antioch continued to fracture into multiple denominations.[42] Some Armenian miaphysite Christians sought to reunite with Rome in later centuries, but their efforts were unsuccessful.[40]

Constantinople is generally considered to be the center and the "cradle of Orthodox Christian civilization".[43][44] From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe.[45] The city became famous for its architectural masterpieces, such as Hagia Sophia, the cathedral of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which served as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the sacred Imperial Palace where the Emperors lived, the Hippodrome, the Golden Gate of the Land Walls, and opulent aristocratic palaces. The University of Constantinople was founded in the fifth century and contained artistic and literary treasures before it was sacked in 1204 and 1453,[46] including its vast Imperial Library which contained the remnants of the Library of Alexandria and had 100,000 volumes.[47] The city was the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and guardian of Christendom's holiest relics such as the Crown of thorns and the True Cross. During most of its existence, the Byzantine Empire was one of the most powerful economic, cultural, and military forces in Europe.[48] The imperial role in the affairs of the Church never developed into a fixed, legally defined system.[49] Additionally, due to the decline of Rome and internal dissension in the other Eastern Patriarchates, the Church of Constantinople became, between the 6th and 11th centuries, the richest and most influential centre of Christendom.[50]

The Eastern Orthodox Church split from Rome during the Great Schism of 1054. With the arrival of the crusaders many Orthodox bishops, particularly in Antioch, were replaced by Latin prelates. After the Mongols defeated the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258, the Armenians and Nestorians had decent relations with the conquering Il-khans for a time, but by the end of the 14th-century many Syrian Orthodox and Nestorian churches were destroyed when the Turco-Mongolian ruler Temür raided West Asia.[40]

Two out of the five centers (Patriarchates) of the ancient Pentarchy are in Turkey: Constantinople (Istanbul) and Antioch (Antakya). Antioch was also the place where the followers of Jesus were called "Christians" for the first time in history, as well as being the site of one of the earliest and oldest surviving churches, established by Saint Peter himself. For a thousand years, the Hagia Sophia was the largest church in the world.

Turkey is also home to the Seven Churches of Asia, where the Revelation to John was sent. Apostle John is reputed to have taken Virgin Mary to Ephesus in western Turkey, where she spent the last days of her life in a small house, known as the House of the Virgin Mary, which still survives today and has been recognized as a holy site for pilgrimage by the Catholic and Orthodox churches, as well as being a Muslim shrine. The cave of the Seven Sleepers is also located in Ephesus.

The death of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (modern day Sivas) is recorded as 320 AD during a persecution by Emperor Licinius. They are mentioned by Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Ephrem the Syrian and John Chrysostom.[51]

Ottoman Empire

Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Istanbul built in Istanbul during Ottoman Empire.
Bulgarian St. Stephen Church built in Istanbul during Ottoman Empire.

In accordance with the traditional custom of the time, the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II allowed his troops and his entourage three full days of unbridled pillage and looting in the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Roman Empire since its foundation by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in the 4th century AD, shortly after it was captured in 1453. Once the three days passed, he would then claim its remaining contents for himself.[52][53] However, by the end of the first day, he proclaimed that the looting should cease as he felt profound sadness when he toured the looted and enslaved city.[54][52] The cathedral of Hagia Sophia was not exempted from the pillage and looting and specifically became its focal point, as the Ottoman Turks believed it to contain the greatest treasures and valuables of the city.[55] Shortly after the defence of the Walls of Constantinople, the city collapsed and the Ottoman troops entered victoriously; the pillagers and looters made their way to the Hagia Sophia and battered down its doors before storming in.[56]

Throughout the period of the siege of Constantinople, the trapped Christian worshippers of the city participated in the Divine Liturgy and the Prayer of the Hours at the Hagia Sophia and the church formed a safe-haven and a refuge for many of those who were unable to contribute to the city's defence, which comprised women, children, elderly, the sick, and the wounded.[57][58] Being trapped in the church, the many congregants and yet more refugees inside became spoils-of-war to be divided amongst the Ottoman invaders. The building was desecrated and looted, with the helpless occupants who sought shelter within the church being enslaved.[55] While most of the elderly, the infirm/wounded, and sick were killed, and the remainder (mainly teenage males and young boys) were chained up and sold into slavery.[56]

The women of Constantinople also suffered from rape and sexual violence at the hands of Ottoman forces.[59] According to historian Barbaro, "all through the day the Turks made a great slaughter of Christians through the city". According to historian Philip Mansel, widespread persecution of the city's civilian inhabitants took place, resulting in thousands of murders and rapes, and 30,000 civilians being enslaved or forcibly deported.[60][61][62][63] George Sphrantzes says that people of both sexes were raped inside the church of Hagia Sophia.

Letter of Suleiman the Magnificent to Francis I of France regarding the protection of Christians in his states. September 1528. Archives Nationales, Paris, France.

The first capitulation concluded between the Ottoman Empire and a foreign state was that of 1535, granted to the Kingdom of France.[64] The Ottoman Empire was then at the height its power, and the French king Francis I had shortly before sustained a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Pavia. His only hope of assistance lay in the Ottoman sultan Suleiman I. The appeal to Suleiman on the ground of the common interest of the Kingdom of France and the Ottoman Empire in overcoming the power of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V overweening power was successful; thus was established the Franco-Ottoman alliance, and in 1536 the capitulations were signed.[64] They amounted to a treaty of commerce and a treaty allowing the establishment of Christian Frenchmen in Ottoman Turkey and fixing the jurisdiction to be exercised over them: individual and religious liberty was guaranteed to them, the King of France was empowered to appoint consuls in Ottoman Turkey, the consuls were recognized as competent to judge the civil and criminal affairs of French subjects in Ottoman Turkey according to French law, and the consuls may appeal to the officers of the sultan for their aid in the execution of their sentences.[64] This, the first of the capitulations, can be seen as the prototype of its successors.[64]

Anglican, American Presbyterian, and German Lutheran missionaries arrived in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.[40] During the same period, there were nationalistic campaigns against Assyrians which often had the assistance of Kurdish paramilitary support. In 1915, Turks and Kurds massacred tens of thousands Assyrians in Siirt. Assyrians were attacked in the Hakkari mountains by the Turkish army with the help of Kurdish tribes, and many Christians were deported and about a quarter million Assyrians were murdered or died due to persecution. This number doubles if the killings during the 1890s are included.[65] Kurds saw the Assyrians as dangerous foreigners and enforcers of the British colonizers, which made it justifiable to them to commit ethnic cleansing. The Kurds fought the Assyrians also due to fears that the Armenians, or European colonial powers backing them, would assume control in Anatolia.[66] Kurdish military plundered Armenian and other Christian villages.[66]

In the 1890s the Hamidiye (Kurdish paramilitary units) attacked Armenians in a series of clashes that culminated in the Hamidian massacres of 1894-1896 and the Adana massacre in 1909. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 300,000 Armenians were killed during these pre-War massacres.[39][67][68][69] Into the 19th century, the Christians of Istanbul tended to be either Greek Orthodox, members of the Armenian Apostolic Church or Catholic Levantines.[70]

First World War

Main articles: Late Ottoman genocides, Armenian genocide, Assyrian genocide, Greek genocide, Great Famine of Mount Lebanon, and Dersim Massacre

Of this photo, the U.S. ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. wrote, "Scenes like this were common all over the Armenian provinces, in the spring and summer months of 1915. Death in its several forms—massacre, starvation, exhaustion—destroyed the larger part of the refugees. The Turkish policy was that of extermination under the guise of deportation".[71]
Greek Christians in 1922, fleeing their homes from Kharput to Trebizond. In the 1910s and 1920s the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian genocides were perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire.[11]

During the tumultuous period of the First World War, up to 3 million indigenous Christians are alleged to have been killed. Prior to this time, the Christian population stood at around 20% -25% of the total. According to professor Martin van Bruinessen, relations between Christians and Kurdish and other Muslim peoples were often bitter and during World War I "Christians of Tur Abdin (in Turkey) for instance have been subjected to brutal treatment by Kurdish tribes, who took their land and even their daughters".[72]

Kurdish-dominated Hamidiye slaughtered Christian Armenians in Tur Abdin region in 1915.[73] It is estimated that ten thousand Assyrians were killed, and reportedly "the skulls of small children were smashed with rocks, the bodies of girls and women who resisted rape were chopped into pieces live, men were mostly beheaded, and the clergy skinned or burnt alive...."[73] In 1915, Turks and Kurds plundered the Assyrian village of Mar-Zaya in Jelu and slaughtered the population, it is estimated that 7,000 Assyrians were slaughtered during this period. In September 1914 more than 30 Armenian and Assyrian villages were burnt by Kurdish and Turkish mobs in the Urmia region.[73] After the Russian army retreated, Turkish troops with Kurdish detachments organized mass slaughters of Assyrians, in the Assyrian village of Haftvan 750 men were beheaded and 5,000 Assyrian women were taken to Kurdish harems.[73] Turks and Kurds also slaughtered Christians in Diarbekir. There was a policy during the Hamidian era to use Kurdish tribes as irregulars (Hamidiye units) against the Armenians.[73][74][75][76]

Treaty of Lausanne

The Greek forces who occupied Smyrna in the post-war period were defeated in the Turkish War of Independence which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne. Under the terms of the peace treaty, 1.3 million Christian residents of Turkey were relocated to Greece and around 400,000 Muslims were likewise moved from Greece to Turkey. When the Turkish state was founded in 1923 the remaining Greek population was estimated to be around 111,000; the Greek Orthodox communities in Istanbul, Gökçeada, and Bozcaada numbering 270,000 were exempted. Other terms of the treaty included various provisions to protect the rights of religious minorities and a concession by the Turks to allow the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate to remain in Istanbul.[77]

Republic of Türkiye (1923–present)

St. George's Cathedral, Istanbul is the epicenter of Eastern Orthodox Church and Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople home to the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.

The BBC reported in 2014 that Turkey's Christian population had declined from 20% to 0.2% since 1914.[78]

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) designated Turkey a "Country of Particular Concern" for religious freedom, noting "systematic limitations on the freedom of religion or belief" with respect to access to places of worship, religious education and right to train clergy. The report does note some areas of improvement such as better protection of the property rights of non-Muslims.[79]

In the pre-war period American missionaries had been actively involved in the Ottoman education system. Many of the schools were closed down and suffered under stringent regulations and burdensome taxes during the country's secularization. Historically, these schools had worked with the Ottoman Empire's Christian communities, and were regarded with suspicion by the fledgling state.[80]

In 2001, Turkey's National Security Council reported that it considers Protestant missionaries the third largest threat to Turkey's national security, surpassed only by Islamic fundamentalism and the Kurdish separatist organization PKK. A 2004 report by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) similarly recommended implementing new laws to curb missionary activity. According to the Turkish Evangelical Churches movement, Turkish Protestant churches had only 3,000 members in 2009—about half of these were converts from Islam, while the others were converts from Armenian and Syriac Christianity.[81] Since Turkish nationality was often perceived exclusively as a Muslim identity after the Balkan Wars, the influence of Protestant missionaries on Turkey's Alevi population has been a concern since the era of Committee of Union and Progress rule.[81][82] In 2016 the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey released a report warning of an increase in anti-Christian hate speech.[83]

Turkey's Christian community has been largely non-disruptive, with the notable exception of one convert, who hijacked Turkish Airlines Flight 1476 with the stated intent of flying it to the Vatican to meet the Pope and ask for his help to avoid serving in a "Muslim army".[84]

In 2013, the Washington Post reported that members of the ruling Justice and Development Party had expressed their desires to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Hagia Sophia, which is called ayasofya in Turkish, is an ancient church dating to 360 AD that was converted into a mosque after Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453. It has been a museum since 1935. Patriarch Bartholomew objected to the government's rhetoric, saying "If it is to reopen as a house of worship, then it should open as a Christian church."[85] Also in 2013, the government announced that the 5th-century Monastery of Stoudios, located in Istanbul's Samatya neighborhood, would be converted into a mosque. The monastery, one of Byzantium's most important, was sacked during the Crusades and later served as a mosque for a time, until it was converted to a museum during the 20th century.[86][87][88]

There is an ethnic Turkish Protestant Christian community in Turkey which number about 7,000–8,000[32][31] adherents most of them came from Muslim Turkish background.[89][90][91] In 2003, Milliyet newspaper claimed that 35,000 Turkish Muslims had converted to Christianity.[92]

Today the Christian population of Turkey is estimated at 200,000- 320,000 Christians.[23][93] 35,000 Catholics of varying ethnicities, 25,000 ethnic "Assyrians" (Turkish: Süryaniler), (mostly followers of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Syriac Catholic Church, the Church of the East, and the Chaldean Catholic Church),[94] 3,000–4,000 Greek Orthodox,[93] 15,000–18,000 Antiochian Greeks[95] and smaller numbers of Bulgarians, Georgians, and Protestants of various ethnicities.

According to Bekir Bozdağ, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, there were 349 active churches in Turkey in October 2012: 140 Greek, 58 Assyrian and 52 Armenian.[96]

In 2015, the Turkish government gave permission for the Christian channel SAT-7 to broadcast on the government-regulated Türksat satellite.[97]

Since the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923, a number of high-profile incidents targeting non-Muslims, including Christians, have occurred. This includes the Istanbul pogrom of 1955, where non-Muslims were attacked and killed, as well as more recent attacks, such as the assassination of prominent Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, the torture and murder of one German Protestant and two Turkish converts in what Turkish media dubbed "the missionary massacres" in the same year,[98][99] and the killings of Italian priests, including Andrea Santoro, in 2006 and 2007. In January 2024, two gunmen fatally shot a man during a church service in Istanbul in an attack claimed by the Islamic State.[100]

Christian communities

St. John's Cathedral is dedicated to John the Evangelist, who in the Book of Revelation sent greetings and instructions to the Seven churches of Asia, including İzmir

By the 21st century, Turkey's Greek Orthodox population had declined to only around 2,000–3,000.[77] There are between 40,000 and 70,000 Christian Armenian citizens of Turkey.[39]

The largest Christian population in Turkey is in Istanbul, which has a large community of Armenians and Greeks. Istanbul is also where the Patriarchate of Greek Orthodox Christianity is located. Antioch, located in Turkey's Hatay province, is the original seat of the namesake Antiochian Orthodox Church, but is now the titular see. The area, known for having ethnic diversity and large Christian community, has 7,000 Christians and 14 active churches. The city has one of the oldest churches in the world as well, called the Church of St Peter, which is said to have been founded by the Saint himself.[101]

Tur Abdin is a large area with a multitude of mostly Syriac Orthodox churches, monasteries and ruins. Settlements in Tur Abdin include Midyat. The Christian community in Midyat is supplemented by a refugee community from Syria and has four operating churches.[102] Some of the most significant Syriac churches and monasteries in existence are in or near Midyat including Mor Gabriel Monastery and the Saffron Monastery.

The Syriac Orthodox Church has a strong presence in Mardin. Many Assyrians left during the genocides in 1915.[103]

By some estimates, in the early 2000s there were between 10,000 and 20,000 Catholics and Protestants in Turkey.[104] Since 1960 a growing number of Muslims in Turkey are converting to Christianity, estimates range from 4,000 to 35,000 by various sources.[92][105][106][107]

Archbishop Martin Kmetec told Aid to the Church in Need, in an interview, that ecumenical relations are generally good in the country. "In general, our relations with other Christian churches are good. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, for example, has a good relationship with the Focolare Movement and the new Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul, Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro. Likewise, here in İzmir we get together with the Orthodox Christians, but also with the Anglicans, on various Christian feast days. Armenian priests recently celebrated an Armenian liturgy at our Catholic Church of St. Polycarp because they do not have their own church in İzmir. We also worked together with the Armenians in İzmir to open a small book shop for the Bible Society. These are promising signs of an ecumenical dialogue."[108]

Churches in Turkey

Armenian Apostolic Church

Main article: Armenian Apostolic Church

Further information: Armenians in Turkey

Armenian Apostolic church in Vakifli, Turkey

The Armenian Apostolic Church traces its origins to St. Gregory the Illuminator who is credited with having introduced the Armenian king Tiridates III to Christianity. It is one of the most ancient churches. Historically, the Armenian Church accepted only the first three Ecumenical Councils, rejecting the Council of Chalcedon in 451; its Christology is sometimes described as "non-Chalcedonian" for this reason. The Bible was first translated into the Armenian language by Mesrop Mashtots.[109][104]

Turkey's Armenian Christian community is led by the Armenian Patriarchates of Istanbul and Jerusalem. As of 2008 estimates of Turkey's Armenian Orthodox population range from between 50,000 and 70,000.[104]

There are 35 churches maintained by the religious foundation in Istanbul and its surrounding areas. Besides Surp Asdvadzadzin Patriarchal Church (translation: the Holy Mother-of-God Armenian Patriarchal Church) in Kumkapi, Istanbul, there are tens of Armenian Apostolic churches. There are other churches in Kayseri, Diyarbakır, Derik, İskenderun, and Vakifli Koyu that are claimed by foundations as well. Around 1,000 Armenian churches throughout Turkey sit on public or privately owned land as well, with them all either being re-purposed or abandoned and/or in ruins.

Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate

Main article: Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate

Further information: General Congregation of the Anatolian Turkish Orthodox

Official insignia of the Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate
Meryem Ana (Virgin Mary) Orthodox Church of the Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate in Galata, Istanbul

The Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate (Turkish: Bağımsız Türk Ortodoks Patrikhanesi), also referred to as the Turkish Orthodox Church, is an unrecognized Eastern Orthodox Christian denomination based in Turkey. It was founded in Kayseri by Pavlos Karahisarithis, a supporter of the General Congregation of the Anatolian Turkish Orthodox (Turkish: Umum Anadolu Türk Ortodoksları Cemaatleri), in 1922.[111] Pavlos Karahisarithis became the Patriarch of this new Orthodox church, and took the name of Papa Eftim I. He was supported by 72 other Turkish Orthodox clerics.[112]

The start of the Patriarchate can be traced to the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922). In 1922 a pro-Turkish Eastern Orthodox group, the General Congregation of the Anatolian Turkish Orthodox, was set up with the support from the Orthodox bishop of Havza, as well as a number of other congregations[113] representing a genuine movement among the Turkish-speaking, Orthodox Christian population of Anatolia[111] who wished to remain both Orthodox and Turkish.[114] There were calls to establish a new Patriarchate with Turkish as the preferred language of Christian worship.[115]

In 1924, Karahisarithis started to conduct the Christian liturgy in Turkish, and quickly won support from the new Turkish Republic formed after the defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1922).[116] He claimed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was ethnically centered and favored the Greek population. Being excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church for claiming to be a bishop while still having a wife and due to the fact that married bishops are not allowed in Orthodoxy, Karahisarithis, who later changed his name into Zeki Erenerol, called a Turkish ecclesial congress, which elected him Patriarch in 1924.

Greek Orthodox Church

Main article: Greek Orthodox Church

Further information: Greeks in Turkey

Pammakaristos Church, also known as the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos (Greek: Θεοτόκος ἡ Παμμακάριστος, "All-Blessed Mother of God"), is one of the most famous Greek Orthodox Byzantine churches in Istanbul
Chora Church medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church preserved as the Chora Museum in the Edirnekapı neighborhood of Istanbul
Kısıl Kilise ("Red Church") near Güzelyurt, Aksaray.

Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire from 330/395 to 1453 AD, became established in the ecclesiastical hierarchy at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. The legendary origins of the Patriarchate of Constantinople go back to St. Andrew, Metrophanes and Alexander of Constantinople. Constantinople's primacy over the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch was reaffirmed at the Council of Chalcedon in 481, after which the papacy in Rome supported Constantinople in its dispute with Alexandria over monophysitism. Later, when Rome sought to assert its primacy over Byzantium, the Eastern Orthodox Church developed the doctrine of pentarchy as a response.[117]

During the 8th and 9th centuries, Byzantium was embroiled in the Iconoclastic persecution.[118] The Photian schism was also 9th century power struggle for the Patriarchate between Ignatios, backed by Pope Nicholas I, and Photios I of Constantinople.[119][120]

The Byzantine Rite is similar to mass in the Catholic Church and the Divine Office (cycle of eight non-Mass services in the Catholic faith).[121] In addition to the Hours of the Office, the Byzantine rite is used for sacraments (including marriage and baptism), ordination, funerals, blessings and other occasions.[122] The three divine liturgies of the Byzantine rite are John Chrysostom's, Basil's, and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.[122]

Roman Catholic Church

Main article: Catholic Church in Turkey

The Catholic Church in Turkey is represented by jurisdictions of Western and Eastern rites. Though the Armenian Apostolic Church was no longer in union with Rome and Byzantium after the Council of Chalcedon, a number of Armenians have converted to Catholicism over the years. After the Ottoman sultan Mahmud II extended formal recognition to Roman Catholics, an Armenian Catholic Patriarchate was established in Constantinople.[123][124]

Syriac Orthodox Church

Main article: Syriac Orthodox Church

Further information: Assyrians in Turkey

Mor Hananyo Monastery, Patriarchal Vicarate of Mardin near Mardin, Turkey. After the Romans withdrew from the fortress, Mor Shlemon transformed it into a monastery in 493 AD.

The Syriac Orthodox Church, that follows the West Syriac Rite, was present in various southeastern regions of modern Turkey since the early medieval times. Since the 12th century, the patriarchal seat itself was transferred to Mor Hananyo Monastery (Deir al-Za`faran), in southeastern Anatolia near Mardin (modern Turkey), where it remained until 1924. In modern times, active churches are located in Istanbul, Diyarbakır, Adıyaman, and Elazığ.[125] There are many both active and inactive churches in the traditionally Neo-Aramaic area of Tur Abdin, which is a region centered in the western area of Mardin Province, and has areas that go into Şırnak, and Batman Province. Up until the 1980s the Syriac population was concentrated there as well, but a large amount of the population has fled the region to Istanbul or abroad due to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict. The Church structure is still organized however, with 12 reverends stationed in churches and monasteries there.[126] Churches were also in several other provinces as well, but during the Seyfo the churches in those churches were destroyed or left ruined.

In modern times, Syriac Orthodox Church hase these provinces in Turkey:[127]

Church of the East

Main article: Church of the East

Further information: Assyrians in Turkey

Historical Church of the East, that followed the East Syriac Rite, was present in various southeastern regions of modern Turkey throughout medieval and early modern times, and the continuation of that presence is embodied in the modern Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East. Ecclesiastical structure of East Syriac Christianity in the region was almost completely wiped out in the Assyrian genocide. Originally, one of its main centers was in the region of Hakkari, in the village of Qodchanis, that was the seat of Shimun-line patriarchs from the 17th century up to the advent of modern times. Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Church of the East visited Turkey in 2012.[128]

Protestant churches

Main article: Protestantism in Turkey

Armenian Protestants own 3 churches in Istanbul since the 19th century.[129] There is an Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey.[130] There are Protestant churches for foreigners in compounds and resorts, although they are not counted in lists of churches as they are used only by tourists and expatriates.

Church of England

The Crimea Memorial Church in Turkey is under the jurisdiction of the Church of England

Anglicans in Turkey form part of the Eastern Archdeaconry of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe. In 2008 the Anglican bishop of Europe, Geoffrey Rowell, caused controversy by ordaining a local man to minister to Turkish-speaking Anglicans in Istanbul.[131]

Evangelical churches

The Armenian Evangelical Church was founded in 1846, after Patriarch Matteos Chouhajian excommunicated members of the "Pietisical Union" who had started to raise questions about a possible conflicts between the Biblical scriptures and Sacred traditions.[123] The new church was recognized by the Ottoman government in 1850 after encouragement from the British Ambassador Henry Wellesley Cowley.[132] There were reportedly 15 Turkish converts in Constantinople in 1864. One church minister said "We wanted the Turks first to become Armenian". Hagop A. Chakmakjian commented that "the implication was that to be Christian meant to be identified with the Armenian people".[133]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Main article: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Turkey

Recognizing that present-day Ephesus of the New Testament endowed Turkey with historical importance, early leaders of the LDS Church preached in Ottoman Turkey in 1850, and—with the help of British LDS soldiers—organized a congregation in Istanbul in 1854.[134] In 1979, another local community of LDS adherents was organized in Ankara.[134]

List of church buildings in Turkey

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (April 2016)

Churches of the Armenian rite

Church name Picture Status
Church of the Apparition of the Holy Cross (Kuruçeşme, Istanbul)
Yerevman Surp Haç Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Archangels Armenian Church (Balat, Istanbul)
Surp Hıreşdagabed Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Cross Armenian Church (Kartal, Istanbul)
Surp Nişan Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Cross Armenian Church (Üskudar, Istanbul)
Surp Haç Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Hripsimiants Virgins Armenian Church (Büyükdere, Istanbul)
Surp Hripsimyants Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Mother-of-God Armenian Apostolic Church (Bakırköy, Istanbul)
Surp Asdvadzadzin Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Mother-of-God Armenian Church (Beşiktaş, Istanbul)
Surp Asdvadzadzin Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Mother-of-God Armenian Church (Eyüp, Istanbul)
Surp Asdvadzadzin Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Mother-of-God Armenian Church (Ortaköy, Istanbul)
Surp Asdvadzadzin Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Mother-of-God Armenian Church (Yeniköy, Istanbul)
Surp Asdvadzadzin Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Resurrection Armenian Church (Kumkapı, Istanbul)
Surp Harutyun Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Resurrection Armenian Church (Taksim, Istanbul)
Surp Harutyun Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Three Youths Armenian Church (Boyacıköy, Istanbul)
Surp Yerits Mangants Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Trinity Armenian Church (Galatasaray, Istanbul)
Surp Yerrortutyun Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Narlıkapı Armenian Apostolic Church (Narlıkapı, Istanbul)
Surp Hovhannes Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Elijah The Prophet Armenian Church (Eyüp, Istanbul)
Surp Yeğya Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Garabed Armenian Church (Üsküdar, Istanbul)
Surp Garabet Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Armenian church in Vakıflı
Vakıflıköy Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. John The Evangelist Armenian Church (Gedikpaşa, Istanbul)
Surp Hovhannes Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Gregory The Enlightener Armenian Church (Galata, Istanbul) active
St. Gregory The Enlightener Armenian Church (Kuzguncuk, Istanbul)

Surp Krikor Lusaroviç Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Gregory The Enlightener Armenian Church (Karaköy, Istanbul)
Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Gregory The Enlightener Armenian Church (Kınalıada, Istanbul)
Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. James Armenian Church (Altımermer, Istanbul)
Surp Hagop Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Nicholas Armenian Church (Beykoz, Istanbul)
Surp Nigoğayos Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Nicholas Armenian Church (Topkapı, Istanbul)
Surp Nigoğayos Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Santoukht Armenian Church (Rumelihisarı, Istanbul)
Surp Santuht Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Saviour Armenian Chapel (Yedikule, Istanbul)
Surp Pırgiç Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Sergius Armenian Chapel (Balıklı, Istanbul)
Surp Sarkis Anıt Mezar Şapeli
active
St. Stephen Armenian Church (Karaköy, Istanbul)
Surp Istepanos Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Stephen Armenian Church (Yeşilköy, Istanbul)
Surp Istepanos Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Takavor Armenian Apostolic Church (Kadıkoy, Istanbul)
Surp Takavor Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Saints Thaddeus and Barholomew Armenian Church (Yenikapı, Istanbul)
Surp Tateos Partoğomeos Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Vartanants Armenian Church (Feriköy, Istanbul)
Surp Vartanants Ermeni Kilisesi
active
The Twelve Holy Apostles Armenian Church (Kandilli, Istanbul)
Surp Yergodasan Arakelots Ermeni Kilisesi
active
Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebastea Armenian Church (Iskenderun, Hatay)
Surp Karasun Manuk Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. George Armenian Church (Derik, Mardin)
Surp Kevork Ermeni Kilisesi
active
St. Gregory The Enlightener Armenian Church (Kayseri)
Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Ermeni Kilisesi
services held once or twice a year
St. Gregory The Enligtener Armenian Church (Kırıkhan, Hatay)
Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Kilisesi
active
Cathedral of Kars converted into a mosque
Narekavank destroyed, mosque built on the site
St. Giragos Armenian Church (Diyarbakır)
Surp Giragos Ermeni Kilisesi
closed – confiscated by the Turkish State
Ktuts monastery abandoned
Cathedral of Ani abandoned following 1319 earthquake
St. George (Sourp Kevork) Armenian Church (Samatya, Istanbul) unknown
St. John the Baptist Armenian Church (Uskudar) unknown
Cathedral of Mren ruins
Holy Apostles Monastery ruins
Horomos ruins
Karmravank (Vaspurakan) ruins
Kaymaklı Monastery ruins
Khtzkonk Monastery ruins
Varagavank ruins, protected
Saint Bartholomew Monastery ruins
Saint Karapet Monastery destroyed, village built on the site
St. Marineh Church, Mush ruins
St. Stepanos Church destroyed
Tekor Basilica destroyed
Vank Church in Şenkaya destroyed by treasure hunters in 2021[135]
Virgin Mary Church, Kayseri museum (converted into a library)

Churches of the Byzantine and Greek Orthodox rite

Church name Picture Status
Church of St. George, Istanbul active
Church of St. Mary of Blachernae (Istanbul) active
Church of St. Mary of the Mongols active
İskenderun St. Nicholas Church[136] damaged due to 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake
Mersin Orthodox Church active
Church of St. Kyriaki, Istanbul active
Meryem Ana Church active
Bulgarian St. Stephen Church active
St. Demetrius Church in Feriköy, Istanbul active
Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church in Beyoğlu, Istanbul active
Panayia Evangelistria in Beyoğlu, Istanbul active. Built in 1893.[137]
Saint Andrew in Krisei converted into a mosque
Chora Church converted into a mosque
Church of Christ Pantokrator (Constantinople) converted into the Zeyrek Mosque
Church of Christ Pantepoptes (Constantinople) converted into a mosque
Monastery of Gastria converted into a mosque
Hagia Sophia converted into a mosque
Church of the Holy Apostles demolished, Fatih Mosque built on top
Church of Saint John the Baptist at Lips (Constantinople) converted into a mosque
Monastery of Stoudios to be converted into a mosque
Church of Saint John the Baptist en to Trullo (Constantinople) converted into a mosque
Myrelaion converted into a mosque
Church of Saint Nicholas of the Caffariotes (Istanbul) converted into a mosque
Pammakaristos Church converted into a mosque
Church of Sergius and Bacchus converted into a mosque
Saint Irene church converted into a mosque
Church of Vefa converted into a mosque
Holy Martyrs Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora converted into a mosque
Saint Mary of Constantinople converted into a mosque
Church of Hagia Thekla tu Palatiu ton Blakhernon converted into a mosque
Church of Hagios Theodoros (Constantinople) converted into a mosque
Church of Hagias Theodosias en tois Dexiokratus converted into a mosque
Church of Saint Thomas converted into a mosque
Church of the Theotokos Kyriotissa (Constantinople) converted into a mosque
Nakip Mosque converted into a mosque
Hagios Eugenios Church converted into a mosque
Panagia Chrysokephalos Church converted into a mosque
Virgin Mary Church converted into a mosque
Hagia Sophia, Trabzon converted into a mosque
Hagia Sophia, İznik converted into a mosque
Church of Christ and Saint Stephen converted into a mosque
Toklu Dede Mosque converted into a mosque (before was a church of unknown dedication)
Alâeddin Mosque converted into a mosque (before was a basilica of unknown dedication)
Saint Paul Cathedral converted into a mosque
Aya Panagia Greek Church (Yaman Dede Mosque), Talas, Kayseri converted into a mosque
St. Gregory of Nazianzos Church, (Kilise Camii), Güzelyurt, Aksaray. converted into a mosque
Hagia Irene museum
Sümela Monastery museum
Virgin Mary Monastery museum
House of the Virgin Mary museum
Church of St Nicholas of Myra(Santa Claus) (Demre) ruins, museum
Taşbaşı Church, Ordu province museum
Saint John's Church, Gülşehir museum
Saint Michael Church in Akçaabat now used for social and cultural activities and museum by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, built in 1332[138]
Saint Voukolos Church now used for social and cultural activities
Kuruköprü Monumental Church museum
Saint Paul's Church, Tarsus museum
Ayazma Church (Faneromeni Church) in Ayvalık After Greeks left in 1925 due to the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey, it turned into an olive oil factory, for a period, and because of that the interior of the building changed. There are plans to be turned into a museum.
Church of St. Polyeuctus archaeological site
Churches of Göreme archaeological sites. In Göreme at Cappadocia there are a lot of old Greek churches.
Basilica of St. John archaeological site
Çanlı Kilise archaeological site
Cave monastery of İnceğiz archaeological site
Gümüşler Monastery archaeological site
Eskigümüş Monastery archaeological site
35 churches and chapels in caves at the Ayazini archaeological site[139]
Church on the Küçük Tavşan Adası archaeological site. A church of the 6th century.[140][141]
Selime Cathedral at the Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia archaeological site[142]
Virgin Mary Church at the Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia archaeological site[143]
Chapel at Bağcılar archaeological site. In 2023, a Greek chapel has been discovered at Bağcılar in Istanbul.[144]
Saint George Church at Diyarbakır built around 200 AD, now an art gallery[145]
Church of St. John, Tirilye transferred to private property after the Greek population was expelled in 1923 and now is a residence
St. Basil's Church, Tirilye became a Stone School (being used for the workshops for carpentry and iron works) and the "Dündar House" (used as a mess house)
Palace of Antiochos ruins
Church of the Virgin of the Pharos ruins
Kuştul Monastery ruins
Bodrum Aya Nikola Church[TR] ruins
Jason Church ruins
Saint Anne Church, Trabzon ruins
Saint Gregory of Nyssa Church, Trabzon destroyed
Meryem Ana Monastery ruins
Vazelon Monastery ruins
Panagia Theoskepastos Monastery, Trabzon ruins
Sinope Koimesis Church ruins
Göreği Monastery, Fatsa district ruins
Pavrezi Chapel, Gümüşhane[146] ruins
Hagios Georgios Monastery, Gümüşhane[146] ruins
Çakırkaya Monastery, Gümüşhane[146] ruins undergoing restoration[147]
Panagia Monastery, Gümüşhane[146] ruins
Seven or more ruined churches in Santa[148] ruins
Church within Kaymakli/Anakou Underground City ruins
Hagia Triada Church, Ayvalık ruins
Kamışlı Kilisesi/Çakrak Church, Alucra district ruins
Üçayak Byzantine Church ruins
Hasanaliler Church ruins
Hodegon Monastery ruins
Pelekete monastery ruins
Medikion monastery ruins
Batheos Rhyakos Monastery ruins, some buildings are used as animal shelters
Niğde Küçükköy Church ruins
Niğde Prodromos Church ruins
St. Theodore Church (Üzümlü Kilise), Derinkuyu ruins
Üzümlü Church abandoned
Kaman Demirli Church (Kilise Kalıntıları), Kaman ruins of unknown dedication.
Heliou Bomon monastery abandoned
Saint Demetrius Monastery on Cunda Island ruins, built in 1766 destroyed by treasure hunters in 2020[149]
Saint Georgios Church in Nilüfer, Bursa ruins, built in 1896 and fell down in 2020, because it was neglected[150]
Hutura Hagios Monastery Church in Gümüşhane ruins, built in the 14th century, it is often plundered by treasure hunters. The library of the monastery is also destroyed.[151]
St. Yuannis Church (Aziz Yuannis Kilisesi) or St. John the Russian Church, Ürgüp ruins
St. Spyridon Church (Kizil Kilise), Güzelyurt. ruins
Saint Analipsis Church (Yüksek Kilise), Aksaray ruins

Catholic churches

Church name Picture Status
Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Istanbul active
St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul active
Cathedral of the Annunciation, İskenderun damaged due to 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake
Church of St. Anthony, Mersin active
St. John's Cathedral, İzmir active
Church of SS Peter and Paul, Istanbul active
Church of Saint Benoit, Istanbul active
Church of St. Mary Draperis, Istanbul active
Saint Paul Church, Adana active
St. Mary's Church, İzmir active
St. Térèse Church, Ankara active
St. George's Catholic Church active[152]
Notre-Dame de L'Assomption, İstanbul active
Church of San Domenico (Constantinople) converted into a mosque
Church of St Peter museum

[153]

Churches of the Georgian rite

Turkey's historical Georgian churches are located in the northeast of the country.
Church name Picture Status
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Istanbul (Bomonti Gürcü Katolik Kilisesi) active
Khakhuli Monastery (Haho/Bağbaşı) converted into a mosque
Doliskana (Dolishane/Hamamlıköy) converted into a mosque
Ishkhani (İşhan) protected

(since 1987)[154]

Parkhali (Barhal/Altıparmak) protected[155]
Otkhta Eklesia (Dörtkilise) abandoned
Oshki (Öşki Manastırı/Öşk Vank/Çamlıyamaç) abandoned
Khandzta ruins
Ekeki ruins
Parekhi ruins
Makriali St. George church, Kemalpaşa, Artvin ruins
St. Barlaam Monastery (Barlaham Manastırı), Yayladağı ruins
Ancha monastery ruins
Okhvame, Ardeşen ruins
Tskarostavi monastery ruins
Bana cathedral (Penek) ruins
Tbeti Monastery (Cevizli) ruins
old Georgian Church, Ani ruins
Opiza ruins

Protestant churches

Anglican churches

Church name Picture Status
Christ Church, Istanbul active
St. John the Evangelist's Anglican Church, İzmir active

Other churches

Church name Picture Status
Buca Protestant Baptist Church[TR] active
Kreuzkirche, İstanbul[DE] active
Samsun Protestant Church active
Church of the Resurrection, İzmir active
All Saints' Church, Moda active

Churches of the Syriac rite

Church name Picture Status
Mor Sharbel Syriac Orthodox church in Midyat active
Mor Gabriel Monastery active
Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church, Yeşilköy, Istanbul active[156]
Mor Hananyo Monastery active
Mor Yuhanna Monastery in Eğil museum[157]
Zuqnin Monastery

List of settlements

Mardin

Majority Christian population

Significant Christian population

Şırnak

Majority Christian population

See also

References

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Sources

Further reading