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Kadıköy: Gateway to Asian Istanbul

A Russian depiction of the Council of Chalcedon, held in the neighborhood in 451 AD (Source: Wikimedia Foundation)

Overlooking the Sea of Marmara southeast of the Golden Horn and located on Istanbul’s Asian side, Kadıköy remains one of Istanbul’s oldest neighborhoods. Continuous habitation of the neighborhood has persisted since at least 3500 BC when the Phoenicians traded in the area. More permanently, Greek colonists founded a settlement in the neighborhood, the city of Chalcedon, in 685 BC. Chalcedon was the site of pivotal events throughout Antiquity, most notably the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, which finalized a split in Christianity between Chalcedonian Christianity—what would later become Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy—and Miaphysite Christianity, the dominant variant of Christianity in modern-day Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Armenia.

However, despite this ancient history, Chalcedon’s importance declined relative to that of its much larger neighbor on the Bosphorus, Constantinople. Emblematic of the neighborhood’s waning relevance during this early period, the Church of Hagia Euphemia, the site of the Council of Chalcedon, was moved to Constantinople in the early seventh century following Persian attacks. Though some remains of the church stand today, it suffered heavy damage during the Latin conquest of Constantinople in the thirteenth century and was further damaged during the construction of Ibrahim Pasha’s palace in 1522.

The modern-day Osman Ağa Mosque, which workers built the first iteration of in the early seventeenth century (Source: Wikimedia Foundation)

By the time of Ottoman conquest, the area was a small, rural settlement, with little visible traces of its former historical importance. However, during the seventeenth century the area witnessed an increase in development in large part due to the construction of the Osman Ağa Mosque, around which the first Turkish bazaar was built. During this period, a substantial Christian population also lived in the neighborhood. The previously-abandoned Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chalcedon was re-established in the fifteenth century and remained in the neighborhood until it moved to Kuzguncuk in the late seventeenth century; later, in 1722, the Armenian Surp Takavor Church was also built in the neighborhood.

A map of Kadīköy, circa 1860. (Source: Mavi Boncuk)

However, the neighborhood remained peripheral to Istanbul until the nineteenth century. During the early part of the period, Kadıköy was notable mainly as a resort destination for Istanbul’s upper-class, ranging from wealthy Christians and Levantines to senior Muslim high officials of the Ottoman state. During this time, the neighborhood grew dramatically, transforming into one of the most important neighborhoods in the city and a vital hub of transport between European and Asian Istanbul.

A map of Kadīköy circa 1882. (Source: Mavi Boncuk)

This rapid expansion began with an influx of residents starting in the 1830s, the introduction of a ferry service in the 1850s, and a new urban plan following the Great Kadıköy Fire of 1855. The state recognized Kadıköy as one of Istanbul’s 14 official districts in 1868, built Haydarpaşa Train Station in the neighborhood in 1872, and constructed Haydarpaşa Port, the largest port in the city, in 1899. Following this explosive growth, the Metropolitan of Chalcedon returned to the neighborhood and built another Church of Hagia Euphemia, patronized by the neighborhood’s growing Greek Orthodox population. Additionally, the Hagios Georgios Church served as a Greek school until its demolition in 1919, though it would later be reconstructed in 1927.

Historic photos of Kadīköy Iskele Park; the Hagia Euphemia Greek Orthodox Church; Kourbalı Dere (Source: Salt Research)

Other notable Greek institutions built during this period include the Hagios Ignatius Greek Orthodox Cemetery, built in 1895, and the Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church, built in 1902 in a neo-Byzantine and neo-Renaissance style under the oversight of Patriarch Joachim III and the Metropolitan Germanos. Nineteenth-century Kadıköy was diverse, with the 1882 Census recording that approximately 40% of residents were Muslim, 28% Armenian Orthodox, and 27% Greek Orthodox.

The modern-day church of Saint Euphemia in Kadīköy. (Source: Wikimedia Foundation)

Today, the neighborhood remains a vital transportation hub and nexus, and serves as a cultural center of Asian Istanbul. As in most of Istanbul, the neighborhood’s diversity declined throughout the twentieth century due to population exchange and the Pogroms of 1955. In current day, the neighborhood’s Greek population is small and aging, with its last Greek primary school closing in the 2010s. Today, the neighborhood’s population is largely educated and upper and middle-class, and the Kadıköy Anatolian High School, built in 1955, is one of the most prestigious high schools in Turkey. The neighborhood’s population is mostly Turkish, supplemented by Armenian, Greek, and Jewish minorities.



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