Constantinople, January 27, 2018
The famous Bulgarian Iron Church of St. Stefan reopened in Constantinople on January 7 after several years of restoration work. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Holiness Neofit of Bulgaria participated in the opening ceremony, leading prayers in the newly-renovated church, reports Balkan Insight.
Also present at the festive celebration were Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, and the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
The St. Stefan Church is a Bulgarian Orthodox church famous for being made of cast iron. It combines combines neo-Baroque, neo-Gothic and Byzantine architectural styles. The parts were manufactured in Vienna and then transported via the Danube River to Bulgaria and through the Black Sea to Constantinople. The Church was inaugurated in 1898. It replaced an older wooden church that had opened in 1849.
Restoration of the historic church, which had been damaged in a fire, began in August 2011, with over 40 Turkish restorers and builders working on the project, co-funded by Turkey and Bulgaria. The project cost $3.5 million, according to the Associated Press.
"This is a great day, and a very good investment in the future. Let us show the whole of Europe and the Christian world that we can improve relations with our biggest neighbour [Turkey]. Small as we are, we will try to contribute to this mutual understanding,” Borissov said.
President Erdogan said the reopening of the landmark church during the Bulgarian presidency of the EU sends an important message to the international community, and that the church contributes to the “beauty and wealth of Istanbul.”