This is a special post to wish my friend Ergun, and my wife Jan happy birthday, their birthdays are one day apart. When I took these photographs of Hagia Triada, Ergun or Jan, or both were with me. Happy birthday Ergun, happy birthday Jan.
We have been visiting Ayvalik, a nice little town on the Aegean coast of Turkey, for quite a few years. The town has many old and interesting buildings from old houses to old churches and many others in between. One building that is near where we stay is an old, dilapidated church, Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity). Unlike many buildings in Ayvalik, houses and churches alike, which are built almost entirely using stone, Hagia Triada structure uses a good amount of wood, including on its columns. If I remember correctly, the local name for the church is Tahtali Kilise, meaning Woody Church or something to that effect. The framing of the structure, at least the second level construction, as well as the columns and arches are made of wood. From an article I found on the wooden churches in Ayvalik, I learned that the core of the columns are cypress tree trunks about 8″ in diameter with additional wood lattice and plaster around them. (See article for more.)
As you approach the 19th century building it is impossible to avoid a feeling of imminent collapse of the whole structure. The wood frame of the second floor with fallen stucco or plaster cover mostly gone makes the interior visible through the cracks. A few semicircular steps in the front lead to a portico. The wall under the portico with three doors is covered with graffiti and the doors are falling apart. Braving the danger of the collapse one can (at that time I took some of the photographs could) wonder inside to take a close look and a few more steps there lead to the main floor. Space is sizable and the roof, supported by columns has a huge hole in the center. The rest can fall anytime. Some of the decorations on the ceiling and on the columns are discernible and they give a sense of what it might have been like in its good days. Lately, the doors are locked for safety concerns and one can only look through the windows. Apparently it was used a storage facility by the local State Monopoly Administration (Tekel Idaresi). Their name is on the no trespassing signs warning the would be visitors entering the building is dangerous. Dangerous, it is!
I am not an art historian and have no idea about the significance of Hagia Triada Church in Ayvalik. It may or may not be a significant structure from historic, architectural, or artistic perspectives. It must, however, have local significance as it once was a part, perhaps a significant part of this town. It stands mainly, at least for me, as a monument to lack of ownership of local history and general neglect of the past and the old. Buildings like Hagia Triada could have been kept up and their lives could have been extended for future generations to enjoy them and the history they represent. For various religious and cultural reasons this building was left to die a slow death. I have seen other examples of this ignorance of local heritage in other places I visited in Turkey as well. Hagia Triada is the symbol of this neglect in Ayvalik. I photographed a whole neighborhood in Adana with its old houses left to a similar slow death. It is not about one building or two, or even ten that are important, the main point is the general neglect of the past.
So again, Happy Birthday Ergun and Jan.