Today in Catholic History – The Destruction of the Church of the Life Giving Spring

On 6 September 1955, the Church of the Life Giving Spring in Istanbul/Constantinople was destroyed during a riot by Turkish Muslims.

The original Church of the Life Giving Spring had been built by Byzantine Emperor Leo I.  According to tradition, he had been looking for water to help a blind man when he heard a voice say to him, “Leo, Emperor, go into the grove, take the water which you will find and give it to the thirsty man. Then take the mud [from the stream] and put it on the blind man’s eyes…. And build a temple here … that all who come here will find answers to their petitions.”

After the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, the original Church of the Life Giving spring was torn down to build the mosque of Sultan Bayezid but Sultan Mahmud II gave permission in 1833 for the church to be rebuilt according to the original dimensions.

The riots of September 1955 were organized by the Turkish military in response to an earlier bombing of the birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey.  While the Greeks had been blamed for the bombing, the individual responsible for the bombing was Turkish.  The government trucked Turks into Istanbul to attack the Greeks in the city and for nine hours the Turkish mob attacked Greeks, Jews and Armenians  – between 16 and 32 people were killed, including a priest, and many were severely wounded.  In addition to the Church of the Life Giving Spring, several other churches were desecrated.

After the destruction of the second church of the Life Giving Spring in 1955, a small chapel was rebuilt on the location of the original church and the faithful Orthodox and Eastern Catholics continue to visit the spring, believing that it has miraculous healing powers.

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