In the city of Smyrna (Izmir) in Turkey, the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Voukolos recently performed its first liturgy in 92 years. The church is located in the Basmane district of Smyrna and has historically been a Greek and Armenian neighborhood and is even mentioned in Giles Milton’s “Paradise Lost”.
The newly restored church was able to survive the horrific Fire of Smyrna in 1922 and was restored as a cultural center in 2008. Now after 22 years, members of the local Greek, Catholic, Orthodox Armenians, and Turkish Muslim communities came together and celebrated the historical event.
Around 200 people attended the liturgy which was conducted by Archimandrite Kyrillos and Metropolitan of Diokleia Kallistos Ware. In addition, the liturgy was followed by a sermon from Father Kyrillos and the mayor of Smyrna, Aziz Kocaoglou. Mayor Kocaglou stated that the event marks the begginning of a deep relationship and brotherhood which will continue to prosper and grow. Following the service the attendees were treated with refreshments and entertained by a musical performance of rembetiko in the church garden.
The event proved to be a happy day for a community that has endured much after the September of 1922. The church of Agios Voukolos is the only remaining original Greek Orthodox church left standing in downtown Izmir dating to the Ottoman Smyrna era around the 1860s.