Kocaeli Üniversitesi Mimarlık ve Tasarım Fakültesi, Mimarlık Bölümü, Kocaeli/Türkiye.

Keywords: Bulgarian, Fener, Şişli, Feriköy Bulgarian Cemetery, Sveti Dimitar Church.


The flow of Bulgarians into the capital of the Ottoman Empire increased especially in the 19th century. Bulgarians, who worked in various jobs in Istanbul throughout the 19th century, have constructed public buildings, some of which are still standing and in the use of their communities, and yet their presence has been rather inconspicuous when compared to other non-Muslims (Greek, Armenian, and Jewish). The structures belonging to the Bulgarian community, mainly located in the Fener and Şişli districts of Istanbul, have not attracted the attention of researchers as much as the structures of other nonMuslims. This article briefly mentions the construction processes of the community structures belonging to Bulgarians, and with the help of documents, it aims to discuss the establishment of the Bulgarian cemetery in Şişli Feriköy district and to evaluate the construction decisions and the architectural features of the Sveti Dimitar Church within the cemetery.

As it is known, Bulgarians, who were Orthodox Christians, were subject to the Greek nation and were attached to the Greek Patriarchate. This situation, in time, caused the Greeks to apply pressure and assimilation policies to the Bulgarians who were subordinate to them, since Greeks had the religious administration in their hands. After the radical changes made by the Ottoman Empire in the administration of non-Muslims with the Reform Edict, the Bulgarians left the Greek Patriarchate in 1870 and ensured that their national church was recognized by the state. It is seen that the Bulgarians, who lived in various districts in Istanbul, concentrated in the Şişli district at the end of the 19th century. Şişli was known as a “Bulgarian Neighborhood” in this period. Considering that before the exarchate building was moved to Şişli in 1907, the search for land for the construction of the exarchate building was quite high in Şişli, it can be considered that Şişli was a chosen region for the Bulgarian settlement. The fact that the Bulgarians left the administration and the church of the Greek Patriarchate by establishing their own exarchate created a situation that attracted the reaction of the Greek community to the construction of Bulgarian structures. It may be concluded that security measures in Şişli district were increased due to concerns regarding the reaction of the Greek community, as other non-Muslim communities had already been settled prior to the Bulgarians and it was difficult to find vacant lands for the construction of Bulgarian buildings. It is seen that the vacant lands are evaluated by considering the settlement status of groups consisting of different religions and sects around them. Despite the government’s efforts to settle Christian communities together, it is noteworthy that within the Christian community, it is not desirable for different sects or ethnic groups to come together in the city. On the other hand, since a Christian settlement close to the places where Muslims reside is not desired, the necessity of living in different points in the same district determined the areas where the Bulgarians would build their structures.

The construction of the Sveti Dimitar Church in Feriköy, which belongs to the Bulgarian community and has not been studied much, dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Instead of going to the church in Fener, the Bulgarian community demanded that a church be built in Feriköy for the rituals of the deceased Bulgarians. However, even though the construction was finished in 1921, the discussions about the unlicensed construction of the church continued. On the other hand, two British citizens complained about the construction of the land as a cemetery and a lawsuit was filed. Although it was allowed to build a cemetery for the Bulgarian community in Feriköy Sakızağacı Street Orta Çeşme Street with a will of Sultan Mehmed Reşad in 1911, various complaints delayed the construction process of the church.