Bulgarian Iron Church Istanbul: what to see and expect, how to get

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The Bulgarian Iron Church, also known as the St. Stephen Church, is a unique and historic church located in the heart of Istanbul, Turkey. Nestled along the Balat neighborhood along Golden Horn, it appears to blend in with its similar sacred places when you look at first. It is one of the most impressive and distinctive churches in the city, and a must-see for anyone interested in history, architecture, or religion. The Bulgarian Iron Church is one of the must-visit churches in Istanbul.

Quick History

St. Stephen was built entirely of cast iron during an early 19th-century phase of architectural innovation with prefabrication. Even now, the walls are made of metal, and rust patches emerge from the inside archways like scarified flowers.

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The church is made of poured iron slabs transported on cargo ships from Vienna, down the Danube River, across the Black Sea, and across the Bosphorus, only to be constructed on-site.

It was economical and efficient, but it was strange. The method was never widely adopted. According to legend, Sultan Abdülaziz refused to allow the city’s Bulgarian Orthodox minority to erect a church.

The Sultan directed that St. Stephen be completed in a single month, “allowing” its construction in a manner he probably considered infallible. But like with so many fantastic tales, the story of the Sultan’s challenge and Bulgarian success isn’t entirely genuine.

Saint Stephen church in Istambul

The Armenian architect Hovsep Aznavur triumphed in a competition to create St. Stephen’s Church, which was funded by the Bulgarian government.

The government then took the initiative of granting a bid for the casting of Aznavur’s molds, which was eventually accomplished by the Rudolph Philip Waagner Company, who also succeeded in moving all 500 tons of the disassembled church to its current position in Istanbul’s Fatih neighborhood. Even by current standards, the church would not have satisfied the Sultan’s requirements.

The sole original element of the wooden church that preceded the Iron Church is its stone altar, which is still in use today. On September 8, 1898, one of the world’s rare full-metal churches was dedicated and has continued in continuous use ever since.

Visitors at St. Stephens are captivated by the rust streaks crawling above a magnificent Orthodox nave, referring to its lengthy trip by boat, only for you to arrive at the water’s side.

What to Expect?

Visiting the Bulgarian Iron Church in Istanbul is a unique and interesting experience. The church is small but impressive, with a distinctive red-brick exterior and iron decorations. Inside, visitors can admire beautiful murals and icons, and the overall atmosphere is peaceful and tranquil.

As the church is located in the busy neighborhood of Balat, visitors can also enjoy exploring the charming and colorful streets around it, which are lined with historic houses, cafes, and shops. It’s a great opportunity to experience the local culture and way of life in Istanbul.

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