St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul

I was quite pleased to come across the St. Anthony of Padua church while in Istanbul. I had seen it mentioned in guidebooks but did not plan on visiting, until I found myself right outside.

Located on Istiklal Avenue, behind a large set of iron gates, it is an impressive building dating back to 1906. It also has the status of being the largest, fully functioning church in Istanbul.

St. Anthony of Padua Church

The sudden decision to enter also led my ignorance to be put on display. I am very embarrassed to admit that I walked up to a statue and asked my two friends “who’s this bloke then?

Here is a picture of the statue…

In my defence, the resemblance is glaring obvious now, but it was not at the time….

The Turkish pope

The Turkish Pope

After a lot of tutting and eyebrows rising in surprise, I was reliably informed that it was the Pope.

Pope John XXIII to be exact and the significance to me was zilch, because I think all the popes look the same anyway.

I was ready to discard this information as useless however; it later transpired that to the people, he was known as the “The Turkish pope.

The Turkish pope preached at this church for ten years leading him to develop a  love for Istanbul and the country of Turkey.

He also mastered the extremely difficult task of being able to speak fluent Turkish. I hold my head in shame, as my level of Turkish, often makes people think I grew up in the gutter.

Istiklal church

The Church of St. Anthony of Padua

Described as Venetian Neo-Gothic  architecture, it is hard not to be impressed when you first walk in.

St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul

It transpires  that  the church along with others was built for 40,000 Roman Catholics who were living in Istanbul at the turn of the century. It was a replacement of the original St. Anthony of Padua Church, which had been demolished previously.

Statue of Mary

Out of respect for people praying, I was very hesitant to walk fully around the church. Also, it was great to view the interior, but the silence, religious works of art and life like statues made me feel uncomfortable.

I have never felt at ease, in any religious place of worship and do not know why. I strongly suspect that in my past life, I was headed on a self-destructive path to the dark kingdom down below.

St. Anthony of Padua

I do have one complaint though. As I walked out of the door, there was a tacky souvenir stand, selling miniature statues of Mary and Jesus.

Seriously, do people buy this stuff?

Statues of Jesus

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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an Internet addict with a passion for history. Read my story here or leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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  1. says

    I’m Catholic and of Italian descent so it was important for me to see this church while in Istanbul. It is beautiful inside; we visited at night and the lighting made it even more dramatic.

    • says

      The inside is definitely impressive Francesca, I bet more so like you say, at night. I was actually quite amazed to learn of the large Italian community living in Istanbul at the turn of the century. Along with Jews and other nationalities, it seems like a large mixture of cultures.
      Natalie wrote about..Patriotic Turks, Their Flag, and the EU

  2. says

    Neat post and church! I didn’t see it when I went. I know who John XXIII is and he was one of the most important and transformative Popes in modern church history (as far as I can tell anyway). What I did NOT know was that he was pastor at a church in Istanbul! It goes to show how travel and experiencing other cultures helps people think beyond the box – he was a great example of that. Cheers!
    Raul (ilivetotravel in Twitter) wrote about..When the Winery Comes to You – Frog’s Leap Wine Tasting

    • says

      Hi Raul, That also shows why I love researching a destination or place so much. You learn a lot that enhances the visit. Also while most do not like guided tours, I am a sucker for them because of the info that the tour guide gives out
      Natalie wrote about..23 Landscape Photos of Turkey

    • Tony Venegoni says

      Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, was made the Apostolic Delegate to Turkey in 1935. He was not the pastor of St. Anthony Church in Beyoglu. He was instrumental in saving the lives of thousands of Jews in the Balkans before and during WWII. As pope, he called the Second Vatican Council which made major reforms in the catholic Church. He was a brave and holy man, one of the great Popes.

  3. phil + Di marina gateway says

    Natalie how could you not no who the pope was ha ha that made me laugh
    i always find the inside of a church relaxing theres something about the silence i find peaceful
    and the inside of this one looks beautiful

  4. says


    A good history lesson for me, I did not know about the Pope’s previous tenure…

    I have visited the church several times, it is awesome and not to be missed. The first time was when one of my Turkish students (not a Catholic) from Robert College invited me to come to see the Christmas Eve Choir in which she was singing! Christmas mass and the Choir are evidently a big event for Turkish people and the church people now have to do “crowd control” so that worshippers who go there for services can get inside! Turks call it St Antoine

    • says

      Apparently Johhny, he was not the pastor but he did preach at the church. Christmas mass must be awesome then, it is nice to see the church up and running but to achieve popularity at a special time of year is great
      Natalie wrote about..Walking Hell’s Gorge

  5. says

    That is an impressive church, glad you could get to see it. I know what you mean with the tacky souveniers, but for the people who can’t even dream of visiting places like that, it apparently means a lot. My surrogate mama lives in Austin Texas, and I got her an icon – I know, not very in the tacky department- from Ephesus. She was so moved by it ans I know will treasure it forever. I guess it is the emotional attachments we put on objects, perhaps make them meaningful- too much reflection for the morning, better grab a coffee and come back to the world!: )
    Ozlem’s Turkish Table wrote about..Let’s Explore My Homeland; Fascinating Istanbul and Breathtaking Land of Turkey

    • says

      Hi Ozlem, I suppose there is that aspect of it but it kind of downgraded the visit a little for me. To see special people from these religion portrayed in tacky statues out side, was disappointing. If they could of made the statues better and sold them in a different manner, I suppose it would not be so tacky.
      Natalie wrote about..The Gallipoli Battle & Anzac Cove : A Poignant Reminder in Photos

  6. says

    Hi Nat, Was in Hacibekta? recently and you can’t imagine the tacky souvenirs on sale there too. We have our fair shape of unbelievable tack here in Cappadocia too.

    • says

      I was there about two years ago Pat and saw them as well. I don’t understand why there is the need for tack as I have seen some places that sell souvenirs well. I went to Miletos, and their souvenir shop was filled with books and magazines about the place. Educational stuff as well like Jigsaws for kids.
      Natalie wrote about..The Simplicity of Simena and My Desire to Return

  7. Denizhan Pekoz says

    The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Istanbul will organize its annual Christmas concert on Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. in St. Anthony Church. The concert is free of charge.

      • Denizhan Pekoz says

        I removed the post after I received your comment.

  8. Eke says

    Hello Natalie,

    The church sounds very impressive!
    We are planning on siting it when we go to Istanbul in March.
    Do you know if there is an entrance fee?

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