Heybeliada - The Monastery of St. John the Baptist (Hagios Ioannis Prodromos)

The monastery of St. John the Baptist (Hagios Ioannis Prodromos) was in the center of the island, on the western slope of Değirmen Tepesi. The site is now within grounds belonging to the Turkish Naval High School, and can be visited only with special permission from the commandant.

The founding date of the original monastery is not known, but it was probably built in the medieval Byzantine period. The monastery was destroyed in 1672, and all that survived was a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Theotokos, the Mother of God, also known as the Kamariotissa, Our Lady of the Arches. The monastery and chapel were rebuilt the following year by Nikosios Paniotakis, who was the Grand Vizier’s dragoman, or chief interpreter. Thenceforth the establishment was known as the monastery of the Panagia Kamariotissa.

In 1828, during the Russo-Turkish War, the monastery was used to house Russian prisoners of war, some three hundred of whom died here. A memorial to them, a (now headless) statue of an angel holding the czars’ coat of arms, a double-headed eagle, can be seen in a small fenced area on the road just above (Aşıklar Yolu, or Lovers’ Lane, cutting across the middle of the island). The Greek Commercial School (Emporikis Scholis) was founded at the monastery in 1831, and in 1875 a new five-storey building was added, making it possible to accommodate some four hundred students, who came from all over the Greek world. The school closed during World War I, when its buildings were requisitioned by the Turkish government. After the war the school reverted to the Orthodox Patriarchate, which used it to house Greek orphans from Anatolia who were displaced in the population exchange of 1923. Then in 1942 the monastery was expropriated by the Turkish government to house part of the Naval Academy. The iconostasis and icons of the Kamariotissa were then transferred to the monastery of the Holy Trinity and the Patriarchate, while the church itself was abandoned and left desolate, as it remains today.

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