206 Rooms of Silence: Etudes on Prinkipo Greek Orphanage

Galata Greek Primary School brings a story similar to its own fate with the story of Prinkipo Greek Orthodox Orphanage with its 206 Room Silence Exhibition.

This gigantic wooden building, which was built by the famous architect Alexandre Vallaury on the hill of Büyük Ada, as a hotel between the woods on the hill of Büyük Ada, but could not get the necessary permissions from the Ottoman government, is not the place where the story begins. The first Greek orphanage in Istanbul was established in 1853 in the Balıklı Greek Hospital in Yedikule, and the orphanage building was evacuated after the earthquake of 1894. A prominent figure in the congregation, Andrea Singros donates a large amount of money for the construction of a new orphanage away from the hospital in order to eliminate the grievances of children before they die. The most suitable place for the New Orphanage is the building which was built as a hotel on the Hristos Hill in Büyükada and the help of Eleni Zarifis, the philanthropist, is requested for the purchase and adjustment of the building.


This wooden building, which was built on an area of 26 thousand square meters, consisting of 206 rooms, two dining halls, meeting, ballroom and concert halls, from Romania, from the tiles of Marseille, from their cousins Paris, has become the new home of orphans. The architecture of this building, which is the second largest wooden building in the world, was built in the Ottoman style, such as Vallaury, Pera Palas, Ottoman Bank, as well as Abdülmecid Efendi Mansion and Afif Pasha Mansion Osman Reis Mosque.


On the name day of Eleni Zarifis, the Greek Orphanage was opened on May 21, 1903 with the participation of Sultan Abdülhamid after the ceremony in Hristos Monastery. The orphanage looked after motherless children  and the children of the poor families of the Greek Orthodox community. There were dormitories on the second floor and dormitories, pharmacy and dispensary on the third floor. Because of the large size of the building was not used a large part was kept closed. In addition to religion courses, languages, history, mathematics, geography, physics, botany, painting and music courses were also given. In addition, there were courses such as embroidery, carpentry, shoemaker, and blacksmithing where they could learn craft. There were also separate sections for children who did not have a place to stay after graduation.


With the outbreak of World War I, the government of the Ittihat and Terakki seized the building and became the compulsory guests of the orphanage. First of all, students of Kuleli Military School and then allied German soldiers and Russian immigrants stayed in the building, which caused heavy damage to the building during this period. In 1942, only the boys were left to the orphanage at the Naval Military School in Hungary by the seizure of the Kamoriatisa Monastery, where the students were sent, and from then on, the orphanage has started to provide mixed education.



With Hristos Mavrofridis becoming head of school in 1955, a golden age of nine years (1955-1964) begins. During this period, while training with highly modern pedagogical methods, activities such as excursions, games and gymnastics were actively carried out, and the feeding of the students was given great importance. Instead of uniform uniforms, students began to wear dresses. During the events of September 6-7, the lynch entrepreneurs against the building were prevented by a 13-year-old orphanage student who met them with Turkish Flag.


In 1964, because of the Cyprus War, the environment was extremely tense and on April 20, 1964, the authorities were asked to evacuate the building within 2 days due to a fire hazard. The girls from 177 students are transported to the Monastery of Christ in the Monastery of Ayios Nikolas and their education is decided to continue at Büyükada Greek Primary School. After the tiring two days, students take their place in the official gate at April 23 celebrations.


The lack of adequate capacity of the monasteries where the students were transported, the lack of adequate facilities such as bathrooms, heating, and the distance between the schools and the cemetery were the beginning of the difficult days. The Greek orphanage was officially closed on August 19, 1977 due to the decrease in the number of teachers and the decrease in the number of teachers in Istanbul following the Cyprus Operation.


In 2005, an application was made to the European Court of Human Rights claiming that the property rights of the building were intervened and in 2008 the plaintiffs were justified. In 2009, the case was brought to the Adalar Civil Court to renew the proceedings and in 2010 the building ownership was granted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The building is one of Europe’s 12 Cultural Heritage Sites.

Here at the 206-room silence exhibition, the story of the Orphanage, which lasted from 1903 until 1977, was told to the audience with pictures and documents. On the other hand, the traces of the day when the abandoned building was abandoned were taken by Murat Germen, Dilek Winchester and Ali Kazma to the audience with photographs, videos and installations.



In the building where Murat Germen entered with special permission, the artist presents us with the sad loneliness of abandonment with dusty and ruined photo frames. Ali Kazma is contributing to the story with his video work about the sea voyage on the way to the island. Dilek Winchester describes the loneliness of a derelict building with empty music book pages in a wooden window in the form of a window, which represents a photograph of the oblique window of a room in the orphanage building damaged by the earthquake and a frame in the photo. The orphanage, which is based on the sound record of the orphanage building, and the work of a poem called Ihlamur Ağacı. The 206-Room Silence Exhibition was a comprehensive exhibition of the story of the Greek Orphanage in Buyukada, which is not known to most people. Thanks to those who contributed to the exhibition.

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