Church of Sveti Stefan or Church of St. Stephen is no ordinary basilica. Unlike most churches of its time, St. Stephen’s is constructed entirely out of cast iron. This method of construction was cost-effective and efficient for the time but never became popular. It was opened in 1898 in Balat, the traditional Jewish quarter on the European side of Istanbul.

The story of Istanbul’s beautiful cast iron church began in the mid-19th century, during a time of growing Bulgarian nationalism. For decades, the Bulgarian population of the Ottoman Empire had worshipped along with the Greeks, but now Bulgarian dioceses were discontent with the supremacy of the Greek clergy and wanted their own places of worship. In order to ease tensions between Bulgarian and Greek minorities, Sultan Abdülaziz granted the Bulgarians their wish.

Legend has it that Bulgarians kept asking the Sultan for their own church in Istanbul, and not wanting to grant them permission, the Ottoman ruler gave them only a month to build it. So, the architects came up with the ingenious plan to have St. Stephen Church made up of prefabricated parts somewhere else, and then assembled in Istanbul in less than a month.

Unfortunately, being made entirely of iron and being located close to the salty Marmara Sea turned out to be a bad combination, as the church started rusting soon after completion. Luckily, the Turkish and Bulgarian governments reached an agreement to have it restored, and in 2018 it was once again opened to the public. Stunning to look at both inside and out, The Iron Church is one of the most worthwhile attractions in all of Istanbul.


According to the Internet