History of FenerFener sits inside the sea walls of Byzantium and this once upmarket area was mainly populated with Greek residents, who then fled from the area before the Ottoman conquest and returned after their safety had been guaranteed by Sultan Mehmed II. These Greeks were known as ‘Phanariots’ and lived in Fener all through the Ottoman period gaining much wealth from trade and commerce, and some of them went on to hold positions of high office at the Ottoman court such as, Rum (Greek) Mehmed Paşa who became a Grand Vizier to Mehmed II from 1466 to 1469 and is buried in Uskudar . Another was Dimitri Cantemir a historian who became a Prince of Moldavia, and a third, Alexander Mavrokordato, who became the Grand Dragoman (official translator) to Sultan Mehmed IV and was much more powerful at court than his title suggests. After the nationalistic uprising in Greece in 1821 many Phanariotes took flight from Istanbul for fear of being persecuted and when that did not happen they returned, but not to Istanbul as most of them went on to settle in Pera on the Princes’ Islands or in Bosphorus villages.
Fener TodayThe grand mansions that once stood in Fener and were a symbol of its wealth are now long gone with only a few survivors today left in ruins. The streets are filled with hanging laundry and the dialects that you hear spoken come from the Black Sea rather than Istanbul Turkish.
As Fener was built on a very steep slope many of its streets were constructed with steps to allow easier access for local people. Stepped School Street (Merdivenli Mektep Sokağı) takes you up to the Greek High School and bypasses Dimitri Cantemir’s house on the right. At the very top are some fine stone houses that hint at Fener’s once grandness and if you follow the winding road round to the left you will see the deserted Yuvakimyon High School for Girls. Nearby on Fırketeci street are the ruins of the large dining hall of St. Mary’s of the Mongols.
Places to Visit in Fener
St Stephen of Bulgars Church
Fener (or Lighthouse in Turkish) is located on the Golden Horn ’s southern shores and has some very interesting churches including that of St. Stephen of the Bulgars, which is completely built from cast iron. It is better known as the home to the Greek Patriarchate , the mother-church for Greek Orthodox Christianity the world over.
Fener Greek High School for Boys
Greeks lived in Fener until the mid-20th century and built the Fener Greek High School for Boys, whose building’s red brick work dominates the hilly streets and can be seen from the Golden Horn. Today the area is more or less populated by poor immigrants from Eastern Turkey and a project was set up by UNESCO/EU to carry out the restoration of around 200 historical buildings in both Fener and Balat .