One of the five known Greek Orthodox churches in Kaleiçi – the Church of Hagios Georgios (Aya Yorgi in Turkish) – is of importance for the recent history and ethnography of Antalya. The inscription by the figure of St. George killing the dragon over the eastern entrance is in Karamanlidika, i.e. Turkish written in Greek alphabet, and reads as follows:
“This Church of Hagios Georgios has existed for long time. As it was in very poor condition it was rebuilt with the contributions of the Christians of Antalya. Year 1863”.
Following the population exchange in 1920s, the church fell out of use due to the lack of congregation. It was then turned into a storehouse with added annexes, thus deteriorated and lost its wooden elements. It was purchased in 1991 by Suna and İnan Kıraç and restored in the following years. In 1996 it became an exhibition hall of the Kaleiçi Museum.
This modest church has a rectangular nave with a vault and reflects the general characteristics of Mediterranean architecture. The vaulted ceiling, symbolising Paradise, is decorated in shades of blue and plaster motifs.
The church houses the Çanakkale ceramics exhibition of the Museum while the ladies’ gallery hosts temporary thematic exhibitions on local cultures.
“A large icon of St. George used to hang from the ceiling of this church in Antalya. The Greek locals of the neighbourhood would claim once in a while that they heard the saint’s horse trotting around. The Greeks of Antalya highly venerated St. George. On his feast day masses were held in the church; on his name day prayers were made until the morning. Greek children would come to this church when they had a tooth or mouth problem and would bite on the latches and rings of the outer gate.…”
“When St. Helena (Hagia Helena) returned to Istanbul from Jerusalem, she had the wooden piece and nails on which Jesus was crucified. As the ship sailed near Antalya, the sea rose up during a strong storm and the huge waves became strong enough to sink the ship. As the saint threw one of the sacred nails into the sea, it calmed down suddenly. Christian seafarers used to claim that they saw the glimmer of that sacred nail as they sailed through this region in stormy weather.…”
George Pechlivanidis, Attaleia kai Attaleiotes, 1989.