What is St Anthony of Padua Church?
St Anthony of Padua Church is a red-brick, neo-Gothic church set in a peaceful courtyard off Istanbul’s busiest shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi.
St Anthony of Padua Church History
Originally founded in 1725 to serve the Pera district’s sizeable Italian community, the church of St Anthony was demolished to make way for a tramline at the start of the 19th century. Fittingly, an Italian architect, Giulio Mongeri, was tasked with designing a new church dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, to be built close to the site of the old. At that time around 40,000 Italians, largely Genoese and Venetian, lived in the area.
Constructed between 1906 and 1912 in a spacious enclosed courtyard situated just off Pera’s main street, the Grand Rue de Pera (today’s Istiklal Caddesi), the church is extremely attractive. Three large, white stone Gothic rose windows contrast strikingly with the russet-coloured brickwork of the façade, while elaborately carved white cornicing edges the underside of the roof parapets. Further Gothic elements include the triple doorway, each surmounted by an arch set in a triangular frame, and faux towers add further interest to the roofline.
The interior follows a traditional basilican design, with a long central nave flanked by twin aisles intersected by a transept. The cross-vaulted ceiling is carried on a series of arches, which are themselves supported by twin lines of columns, forming arcades which separate the nave from the aisles. Numerous high, Gothic arched windows filled with stained glass allow light to flood into the interior.
The architect Mongeri was born in Istanbul, part of the large Levantine community that lived and worked in the Ottoman capital in that period. Whilst the church is clearly Gothic in inspiration, Mongeri was much influenced by traditional Ottoman, Seljuk Turkish and Byzantine architecture, and many of his other buildings are associated with the First National Architecture Movement; in its conscious attempt to revive an older style of architecture in the face of increasing industrial methods of construction this was the Ottoman Turkish equivalent of the English Arts and Crafts movement. Barring the years he spent studying architecture in Milan and a period of exile during the First World War, Mongeri lived for most of his life in Istanbul, though he died in Italy in 1953 and is buried in Venice.
St Anthony’s, known to the Turks as Sent Antuan Kilisesi, is the largest Roman Catholic church in Istanbul. It remains a centre of Christian worship, holding regular Masses in Italian, Polish, English and Turkish.
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