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Orthodox church in Izmir faces demolition

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite6_1_23/08/2013_515217 Orthodox church in Izmir faces demolition Plans for a new highway threaten Profitis
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2013
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      http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite6_1_23/08/2013_515217

      Orthodox church in Izmir faces demolition

      Plans for a new highway threaten Profitis Ilias
      By Dimitris Rigopoulos
      ekathimerini.com , Friday August 23, 2013

      Plans for a new highway are threatening one of the last surviving Greek
      Orthodox churches in the region of Izmir (Smyrna) in Turkey.

      Profitis Ilias (named after the Prophet Elias/Elijah, a revered figure
      for both Christians and Muslims) is a three-aisled basilica commissioned
      in 1846 by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Anthimus VI.

      Its dimensions are 10 by 19 meters and it has a quadrilateral rooftop.
      It lies on a prominent spot on the road to the suburb of Budjah, 2
      kilometers southeast of the city center, in St Anne's Valley, where the
      Meles River (Yeşildere) flows under the Sirinyer and Yesildere
      aqueducts, which date to Roman times.

      Profitis Ilias is set to be demolished at a time when the ambitious
      plans of the Izmir Municipality to revive lost city monuments are in
      full swing. Recently an entire neighborhood near the slopes of Mount
      Pagos and the Kadifekale fortress was razed to the ground in order to
      allow for the excavation of the scant remains of an ancient Roman
      theater. The authorities plan to reconstruct the theater and put it to use.

      Today, the church lies dilapidated, as Achilleas Chatziconstantinou, a
      Greek geographer and researcher of the historical topography of Izmir,
      says. The external porch is completely missing and there is a huge hole
      on the western side where the main entrance was. The interior of
      Profitis Ilias has been ransacked. Because of its size and the fact that
      it was built far from the town, some describe it as a monastery, but the
      absence of other structures suggests otherwise.

      There are many postcards from the pre-1922 era that show the church in
      an idyllic location among tall trees, the river and the aqueducts. In
      fact, it was a popular countryside destination for the inhabitants of
      Smyrna. In his books, Christos Solomonides also names the last priests
      who served there in 1922: Aristarchos and Agathaggelos.

      After 1922 and the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey, the
      area was declared a restricted military zone and the church survived as
      an ammunition depot. However, while this designation served as
      protection for as long as the area remained a military zone, the Izmir
      Municipality's plans for the construction of a new highway have now put
      its very existence in danger.

      In 2011, Doğay Korkmaz, a postgraduate student of architecture at the
      Izmir Institute of Technology, presented his master thesis, titled
      “Investigation of Conservation Problems of the Prophet Elias (Elijah)
      Church in Izmir,” the only known study of the church so far. The
      potential destruction of Profitis Ilias will erase all hope for future
      research on the structure and remnants from previous eras that might
      still exist on the ground. This would have a negative impact on the
      study of Christian Smyrna and most of all on the history of the Greeks
      of Asia Minor, whose places of worship continue to vanish at an alarming
      rate after 90 years of neglect.
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