Art show in historic Istanbul Orthodox seminary stirs hope of reopening

September 7, 2010

halkiAn Istanbul seminary closed in 1971 is hosting its first public event in 40 years, raising hopes it may shortly be reopened by Turkey and once again educate priests for the Greek Orthodox community.

The European Union and the United States have pressed EU membership hopeful Turkey to reopen the historic school, which occupies a beautiful and commanding site at the top of the island of Heybeliada, or Halki in Greek, off the Istanbul shoreline.

(Photo: Empty classroom at Halki seminary, September 18, 2006/Tom Heneghan)

“Tracing Istanbul,” an exhibition of works by Greek artists inspired by the city, has filled the school’s evocative, abandoned classrooms with paintings and brought life back to the corridors.

A Turkish court ordered the school shut in 1971 under a law curbing non-state religious education that also applied to Muslims. The EU has said Halki’s closure undermines freedom of religion and Turkey must expand non-Muslim minorities’ rights.

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