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Beyoğlu’s Anglican church (below the German High School in Tünel), formerly the Crimean Memorial Church, was built by G.E. Street, architect of London’s Law Courts. The foundation stone was laid by the powerful ambassador Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in 1858. The church was conceived as a memorial to the Crimean War, but it is not sombre in feel – Street opted for a ‘French Gothic’ style.
The newly painted rood screen by Mungo McCosh is a Gallipoli memorial, a stunning exercise in 15-century technique.
To anyone familiar with Victorian church architecture in Britain, a visit to Christ Church, Istanbul, is an uncanny experience. Here is a church that seems to have strayed out of the London suburbs or, perhaps, one of the seaside resorts of the English south coast. Having approached it through narrow streets lined with wooden houses, the visitor is suddenly confronted by a building in uncompromising Gothic style which pays no respect whatsoever to the genius loci.
Largely hemmed in by other buildings, its gabled west front partly hidden by trees, the most prominent external feature is a spire that points upwards from the north side, close to the minaret of a small local mosque. The walls are of local grey rubble stone, with stone imported from Malta for the carved detailing; the tiles (which later had to be replaced) came originally from Marseilles and the internal timberwork from Trieste. Massive buttresses give the exterior a sturdy, muscular character shared by many Victorian Gothic churches.
The narthex-like west porch leads into a calm, light and beautifully proportioned interior. Lightness and space are also characteristics of Istanbul’s famous mosques, but at Christ Church the effect is achieved in a totally different way. Like Sinan in the sixteenth century, the architect, George Edmund Street, wanted to bring worshippers to their knees. Here, however, instead of exploiting the numinous power of domed spaces, he used the North European devices of the pointed arch and the stone vault (the nave roof is of wood). The church is fairly narrow for its height, and is well-lit by large traceried windows inspired by early French Gothic architecture, with triple lancet windows at the west end and a rose window over the altar to the east. There are no aisles, and the eye is immediately directed to the chancel, which, at Street’s insistence, and against the protests of Evangelical clerics, is raised up on steps, highlighting the Eucharistic emphasis of the church’s worship: something which is still maintained. This allows for the provision of a crypt beneath, thus taking advantage of the sloping site (the east wall is eighty feet high from ground level)…
John Scott and Berrin Torolsan
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