The Crimean War (1853-6) was a very strange war, fought between the Russians on one side and the British, French and Ottoman Turks on the other. The motivation for each of the belligerents was both complex and shifting. Even the location for the battles was unfortunate - the Crimean Peninsula saw most of the hostilities presumably because the most important Russian naval base was in Sebastopol.
Battle of Balaclava, Oct 1854
part of Siege of Sebastopol
Painted by Richard Caton Woodville Jnr
Yet it is clear that religions and religious freedoms were at stake. The Russians insisted on extending protection to the Russian Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman Empire. And at the same time Russia and France were very anxious to protect the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in Palestine, a territory that was still ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
But if Emperor Napoleon wanted Catholic allies who would flock to him if he attacked Russia’s Eastern Orthodoxy, why did he think he would attract Anglican Britain to the French Alliance? I am assuming that Britain did not give a toss about the religious rights of French Catholics or Russian Orthodox in Ottoman territories. Rather Britain was hoping to maintain the Ottoman Empire as a buttress against the expansion of Russian power in Asia.
Neutral Austria too did not want to see Russia controlling the Dardanelles. But I believe that Austria, Britain and France were hoping for a diplomatic settlement and did not expect a war covering half of Europe's population. When the Ottoman Turks declared war in October 1853 and attacked the Russians, everyone was caught by surprise. Everything I know about the Crimean War came from the catastrophic Charge of the Light Brigade in October 1854 and the catastrophic attempt by Florence Nightingale (Oct 1854-Aug 1856) to save young, wounded soldiers’ lives.
Crimea Memorial Church, Istanbul
In February 1856 the war ended but the loss of life had also been catastrophic; of 1,650,000 soldiers who began the war from both sides, hundreds of thousands of young men died. 90,000 of these deaths were French, 21,000 were British, approximately 120,000 were Ottoman and approximately 250,000 were Russian. As soon as the surviving British soldiers were back at home, an appeal was launched in London to build a memorial church in Istanbul to British soldiers and their sacrifices in the Crimean War.
The Crimea Memorial Church was to be designed by the selected architect William Burgess, the man famous for restoring Waltham Abbey and for building Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral in Cork. Yet something went wrong. The selection committee cancelled their choice of architect and instead gave the nod to ecclesiastical and royal courts of justice architect George Edmund Street (1824-1881). Perhaps the selection committee suddenly discovered that Burgess did not like gothic revival and that G.E. Street did.
Whatever the thinking, G.E. Street took over in 1863 and built on land granted by the Ottoman sultan. He had the church consecrated in 1868 and had all the other buildings completed before his death in 1881. The belfry looked like a minaret but everything else looked normal for a neo-Gothic Victorian church surrounded by a beautiful garden, a high stone wall and a tall iron gate. The church was rectangular, made of stone and has two small steeples above the door.
The narrow, tall interior of the nave featured a brown and black patterned floor, simple wooden chairs and a side chamber with a baptismal fountain. There were four arches impressed into the side walls of the nave, each adorned with three columns of stained glass and five support columns. The altar, separated from the rest of the nave by a decorated choir screen, was dimly lit by a rose window on the front wall. A beautiful pulpit, featuring white, red, and blue-green shades of marble, stood in front of the altar. The baptismal font inside the church was made of one piece of marble. The church's huge organ, made in England in 1911, was on the wooden mezzanine level and reached via a cast iron staircase also brought from England.
Crimea Memorial Church
nave, painted rood screen and rose window