Restoration of the Church of Saint Sophia at Trabzon

Location: Trabzon; Trabzon Province

Years: 1957-1962

Project Director: David Winfield

Participants: Michael Smith (1958-1959), Anne Powell (1958), R. W. Thompson (1958), Selina Tomlin (1958), Mrs. Wainwright (1960), Hale (1960), Richardson (1960), Clogg (1960), Flashtig (1960), David and Tamarra Talbot Rice (1961)

Government Representative: Muhittin Üysal (1960)

Funding: Russell Trust, BIAA

In 1957, the BIAA collaborated with the Walker Trust of St. Andrews to continue work at the Byzantine church of Saint Sophia at Trabzon, originally begun by a team of Russian researchers.  David Winfield was appointed to investigate frescoes, and possibly undertake restoration work in a future season.  In June, while waiting for the necessary permit to be issued, he surveyed monuments around Trabzon.  At the end of September the permit was granted, at which point he undertook a study of the surviving frescoes in the church.

In the summer of 1958, David Winfield and the team continued work at St. Sophia and in other nearby buildings.  Plaster was removed from the church, revealing paintings and a vault with an ascension scene, which was partially cleaned and photographed.  It was at this stage that local authorities first expressed interest in creating a museum out of the building.

Winfield and Smith returned for work between 21 April and 31 October 1959, where they were primarily focused on preserving the paintings cleaned last season.  Scaffolding was then set up in preparation for the following season.

Between 9 May and 16 October 1960 work continued.  The team’s work revealed a series of medallions of saints and Christ, a scene of the Last Supper, and various other painted scenes.

The fifth season lasted for about twenty-three weeks in 1961, and included a visit from Talbot Rice and his spouse, who did some survey work.  The foundations of an older church were discovered beneath the present church, as well as some tombs – only one of which was mostly intact.  Paintings continued to be cleared and cleaned, and one particularly unique scriptural scene, depicting the boy possessed by devils, was uncovered.

Work was concluded by 1962, and the Winfields carried out some additional cleaning of paintings at Eski Gümüş, near Niğde, thanks to some funding from the Russell Trust.  David Winfield also did some follow-up work in Trabzon in 1963.

The church was subsequently converted into a museum, and remained in use for some decades.  In 2013 a decision was announced to turn the museum into an active mosque (Anatolia, 2013).

Bibliography:

1958: ‘Report of the Council of Management and of the Director for 1957’ Anatolian Studies 8: 10

1959: ‘Report of the Council of Management and of the Director for 1958’ Anatolian Studies 9: 6

1960: ‘Report of the Council of Management and of the Director for 1959’ Anatolian Studies 10: 4, 9

1961: ‘Report of the Council of Management and of the Director for 1960’ Anatolian Studies 11: 7-8

1962: ‘Report of the Council of Management and of the Director for 1961’ Anatolian Studies 12: 9

1963: ‘Report of the Council of Management and of the Director for 1962’ Anatolian Studies 13: 4-5

1964: ‘Report of the Council of Management and of the Director for 1963’ Anatolian Studies 14: 5-6

Anatolia News Agency, 2013. 5 February 2013. Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia to open for prayers. Hurriyet Daily News, [online]. Available at <http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/trabzons-hagia-sophia-to-open-for-prayers.aspx?pageID=238&nid=40538> [Accessed 24 March 2013]

See also:

Winfield, D. 1962: ‘A Note on the South-Eastern Borders of the Empire of Trebizond in the Thirteenth Century’ Anatolian Studies 12: 163-172

Belongs to;
Conservation & Restoration
Cultural Heritage Management

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