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A Catholic Kilim

Unraveling the Past at Saint-Benoit
by Gabriel Doyle

Works of art are often not only beautiful objects, but also important historical sources, telling a larger story just as any written document could. In one of Istanbul’s many churches, I encountered a mysterious carpet that could be read as an archive of information, modestly contributing to the city’s history.

In the summer of 2015, trying to enrich my master’s thesis with some photographs, I was allowed to enter the chapel of Saint-Benoît, a major historical building of Istanbul situated in the neighborhood of Karaköy. Owned by the same Catholic congregation since 1783, Saint-Benoît is today a French-Turkish private school. The building itself dates back to the Byzantine period, when it was converted into a monastery as part of the Genoese colony in Galata. After the Ottoman conquest, but especially following the agreement between France and the Ottoman Empire in the early 16th century, the monastery was offered to the Jesuits under…

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