Mysterious chapel unearthed in Istanbul’s Bağcılar District

ISTANBUL — An unexpected discovery has been made in Istanbul’s Bağcılar District. A historically significant chapel, shrouded in mystery regarding its origins and builders, was unearthed. As concerns mount about its unprotected condition, experts in archaeology advocate for comprehensive excavations within the vicinity.

The structure appears as a passageway when viewed from a distance, capturing attention as an overlooked relic from Istanbul’s past.

Although the edifice is speculated to be a chapel, its surroundings host commercial establishments and a school building positioned atop it.

Archaeologist Ömer Faruk Yavaşçay, responding to inquiries from NTV journalist Sinan Kunter, shared insights into his discovery while examining city maps.

(Image: Sinan Kunter)

Yavaşçay noted that certain historical maps designate the structure as an “Ayazma”, signifying a source of holy water in the Orthodox tradition. In light of historical context, Yavaşçay mentioned the presence of a Greek village in the area during the Ottoman era, implying that the chapel may have been constructed by the Greek community in the late 1800s.

In his interactions with local residents, Yavaşçay discovered that the site had served as a fountain around 25 to 30 years ago.

Highlighting the need for meticulous excavation efforts to unearth more detailed information, Yavaşçay emphasized the urgency of safeguarding and preserving the chapel.

Bağcılar District is the fourth most densely populated in Istanbul. Its name, which translates to “vine growers” in Turkish, derives from its once-prolific vineyards. The district was initially referred to as Yeşilbağ, meaning “green vineyard”.

Subsequently, the appellation changed to Yeşilbağ during Bağcılar’s transition to a town, before reverting to its original name when elevated to district status. In the Ottoman era, Bağcılar was known as Çıfıtburgaz (Yahudburgaz), a region largely inhabited by non-Muslim communities.